Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Living creatively

Rain threatens today, and I'm hoping it will come. The grass is thin and browning, already crispy in places. A neighbor's pond already looks like it was mid-summer, not spring, and it will be nothing more than a big mud puddle if we don't get rain (or he doesn't get his windmill going).

But my garden is planted, tomatoes and all, and even though nights are still cool, things seem to be growing well. Our weekend was cooler and easier to work outside -- I spruced up flower pots and cleaned off porches, and it looks much better, although there's still (always) work to be done.

This is Missoula Children's Theatre week here, and those of us on the Tehama County Arts Council are busy helping with the production. It's exciting to watch kids from age 5 to 17 audition on Monday, rehearse all week, and then perform on Saturday. Kids today just don't have the arts opportunities that I did as a child -- at least in rural communities, and I'll bet even in urban areas that such programs are not often found in ordinary public schools.

I got art lessons through our wonderful art museum, drama opportunities both in school and through the parks department, all the books I could read through the county library's bookmobile system which brought them to a nearby park every two weeks, and a terrific school music program that started in fourth grade. Back then, there were not sports leagues for girls -- and I was a bookworm anyway, and decidedly unathletic -- so when my brother would play on Little League teams, I'd bring a book along.

Funny. Even with all the technological advances and vast information we have today, I believe my public education was superior to what is offered in many public schools today -- more than 50 years ago. There's something just wrong about that.

Children are hungry for expression -- for creativity -- for knowledge. They soak up information and ask questions (if they're allowed). Even the most awkward child will draw with crayons or chalks or paints (until they're told they have no talent). They'll sing and dance, even TV jingles if they have no other music sources (until they're criticized for making too much noise or breaking something). They'll play make-believe under tables, in boxes or hidey-holes under trees and shrubs, and pretend to be princesses or soldiers or kings or athletes or cowboys (until they're told it's silly and they shouldn't do it).

And then we spend the rest of our lives trying to regain that stifled creativity, don't we.

If you have a child in your life, encourage them to play creatively, to create, to perform. Take them to see the MCT performance at the State Theatre this weekend. Talk about books and music and art. Sometimes it's the only thing that still make sense in this world.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weather. Or not.

Seems like we basically skipped most of spring and went straight to summer, at least the last few days.

It was in the upper 80s over the weekend, and it felt almost too hot inside -- and we haven't even had the swamp cooler or air conditioner serviced for the season yet. I worked in the garden on Sunday, and it was downright hot. Tony was doing some mowing and trimming, and we both kept Gatorade and water close at hand.

MUCH too early for this kind of weather.

It's back to something reasonable today -- in the 60s -- but we're soaring back into the 80s Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Odd to think that other parts of the country are still freezing. I put out tomatoes yesterday! (okay so it's early -- but a friend gave me six pots of very leggy, greenhouse-started beauties, and they needed to get into the ground).

I don't like it.

I love the garden part, don't get me wrong. But I can control my enthusiasm for the heat and very dry weather we've had. The grass is already browning, and it seems like we barely had the beauteous, Irish-green that characterizes spring in Northern California. The lilacs have already come and pretty much gone, and I didn't even get in a good sniff!

But I didn't get quite enough of sweatshirts and woodstove fires and bubbly stews and flannel sheets. I put on regular sheets Sunday, and while they are new ones in a nice 400 thread count, they aren't the snuggly comfort of flannel.

I'm still hoping for rain. This is rodeo week in Red Bluff, and every year we've been here has meant rain and cold for the parade on Saturday. Right now the forecast is 63 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain.

But we're fast running out of time for this season. At mid-April, we have maybe six weeks of possible rain left, and that's generous. And then it's sun, sun, sun, sun, hot, hot, hot, hot, dry, dry, very dry, tinderbox dry, and alligator skin dry. Until sometime in October, maybe even November. *sigh*

I know, I know. Be where you are.

I do love where we live, really truly. I love the seasons, I love the mild winters, I love the rain. I love the sun, too, and both the green and the gold seasons. I can even take the heat, mostly, since it IS dry and not the awful humidity that I lived in most of my life.

But a little more balance would be nice.

Guess that's true of all of my life, hm...(as I face multiple deadlines this week and instead of writing stories, I'm writing this blog....)

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Well.....fumbling fingers strike again.

I was in the midst of a very profound post about a truth I discovered today as I was reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose -- yes, the Oprah book, although I'm not following the classes because I'm reading it too slowly for that.

My fingers hit some key combo, and POOF. Gone.


If you have the book, read page 114: it was the subject that slapped me upside the head today.

Basically, it is about a low-level background resentment (the ego) that subtly blames others or ourselves for our not being at peace in the here and now. It's pervasive, it's always there, you learn to live with it there and try not to notice too much. But it eats away at you. You're never satisfied. It's always either your fault or someone else's fault that you're not happy, not at peace.

The secret of happiness, Tolle says? Guess.

You make peace with the present moment. "Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don't live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance."

It's my same old song, what I've said here any number of times. Be where you are. You live life in the moment. It's all you have, this very moment.

That background resentment was something I lived with for many years, but for some reason the way Tolle wrote about it clicked for me.

He says, "...you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment."

(I'm not even sure this is making sense as I try to explain it.)

Maybe I'm more awakened to myself, to the world, than I sometimes feel that I am.

I'm grateful I no longer live with that unsettled background resentment that is stifled anger. I'm grateful for awakenings and courage to get to where I am now, and for epiphanies that keep me grounded when I slide sideways.

May you be so blessed.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Our world is a circle

My best friend Julie is very much on my mind today as she prepares to bury her brother, who died after fighting cancer for several years. Her mother and sister are both in care homes, and David had managed their affairs for years since he lived close by.

Another local friend lost her mother a few weeks ago -- not an unexpected death, but the actuality of it is always more of a shock than we think it will be.

And then another friend sent me this today: A Parent's Wish. Oh, it is fairly schmaltzy, backed by Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up," which can make me puddly most any day, but the message resonated with me more today than it might have other days.

Life is a cycle, folks, a circle.

You might remember the not-so-great attempt at making a musical version of Lost Horizon some years back. There was a song -- written by Burt Bacharach -- titled "The world is a circle without a beginning..."

Disney said it in the Lion King's Circle of Life. Shakespeare wrote it in As You Like It, about the seven stages of man. Literature, art and music are full of philosophies, pontifications, heart-warming and heart-wrenching stories. It is a universal theme, this life journey of ours.

We have beginnings and endings in our lives, but we become part of that great continuum of life, that circle. When we are able to awaken to that reality of our lives as journey, we are able to more fully appreciate and experience it, all the joys, all the sorrows, and perhaps to see the beautiful symmetry of our places on that great wheel.

The stupid video made me cry -- for my parents, for my daughters, for Julie, for her brother and his children, for me.

And it again reminded me that this existence is finite: what we make of our life is our choice. How we experience our days is our choice. Even in the most routine, most mundane tasks, there can be beauty, satisfaction, great joy in just simply noticing how our bodies move, how a glowing evening sky makes us feel, what emotion is evoked in us by hearing a simple 'hello' from one we love.

Do not simply exist through the days, friends. Be present in your moments. It is all we have.