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Mobius

Following the wisdom of my ancestors, I walk the words to find the truth. Words are a path, the spaces between are the destination. To find a way between the words, you must walk the path and hear the deafening roar of silence.

"Who has not listened to hear the secret
stories of the land whisper from ruins or
forests, or the pages of ancient texts?"

~
Ari Berk~

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Counting My Imaginary Chickens

I've been thinking a lot lately about chickens. Everywhere I look these days there seems to be an unending stream of helpful information about them. How to select a breed. How to buy online. How to raise them. How to manage their emotional needs. How to socialize them. How to calculate their reproductive cycles in a financially viable way (most articles recommend a cascade strategy that allows for chickens to be staggered by age in order to continuously produce eggs - the average egg laying span of a chicken's life being about two years.) How to build coops (or more correctly "houses") that look like Death Stars, or Antique Carousels, or Small Villas on the Amalfi Coast (I am not making this up).

"it's all about the attitude"
And then there is, of course, chicken couture. Seriously. Fashion forward apparel for the well dressed chicken... Sweaters and hats being the front runners on the proverbial henwalk.  Any modestly worded online search will reveal the glories of this little known niche market but I must admit that I was severely disappointed
when a routine google search on "clothes for chickens" turned up tons of photos on Pintrest of almost unendurably cute outfits for little girls (there's another whole blog in that I am sure).

"watch me work, ladies"
Future archeologists (a favorite game of mine) will no doubt be certain that for a brief time in our culture, the chicken outshone the
cat as the predominantly desirable pet. When Facebook begins to proliferate with chicken memes I
will feel oh-so-very-justified in my own perspicacity regarding that particular observation.

This new-to-me awareness
of a growing backyard chicken raising movement first appeared about a year ago on my radar in the usual way. Through Twitter. I am not a proficient Twitter user, just so you know. My learning curve on the popular social media tool was nosebleed inducing. So as a new user without a clue, I found myself inadvertently
flung up on the digital shores of a deeply reverent and sometimes militant sub-culture of radicalized chicken farmers living in England with absolutely no idea how I had gotten there. I do not live in England. But then that's the beauty of the internet, isn't it? Suddenly my days were filled with anticipation and sometimes trepidation about the lives of chickens I had never met. It was hell.

"the "little chicken on the praire" look"
Would Mr Twickham and Lady Buttercup find love? Would Fat Albert and Gizmo ever learn to co-exist? Why was Millie so stand-offish? These were the burning questions that haunted my days. Ok, a few days maybe. Ok, a day... tops.



"Lady Gaga...no, really"

This brings me to a murky facet of chicken-raising life that no one really likes to talk about... The dark underbelly of competitive chicken naming. There seem to be many schools of thought
on naming chickens. Not breed names mind you, personal names. The more pragmatic
owners tend to go with culinary based themes: "Nugget" "BBQ" "Extra Crispy, "Sweet & Sour", or even "Drumstick". There are the flower aficionados who wax poetic: "Marigold, "Violet", "Petunia" or "Daisy", and herbalists who weigh in with: "Saffron", "Sage", "Rosemary" Hyssop" and "Rue". The genteel little old lady devotees: "Ethel", "Henrietta", "Lydia", or "Florence" and the ever popular literary hens: "Emma", "Elizabeth", "Jane", "Miss Bennett", and "Mr Knightly". Superheros, TV & movie characters, rock stars, Greek gods, Middle Earth inhabitants, Country Western singers, and Shakespearean characters abound. Then of course there are the quirky, rogue, silly, baffling or just-plain-stupid names. I will refrain from citing examples for obvious reasons. My own personal candidates should I ever consider taking the poultry plunge are: "Moe", "Larry", and "Curly". Call me old fashioned.

During the course of my haphazard research into this anthropological blip on our cultural timeline I discovered a pervasive, growing, hidden-in-plain-sight trend that shook me right down to my well-worn Converse sneakers. Urban chicken keeping. Chickens actually daring to cross roads that you wouldn't even want your 35 year old son or daughter to cross. Chickens hanging about on street corners for the purpose of god knows what. Latch key chickens. Chicken therapy. Chicken yoga studios. Chicken parkour. Chicken voguing clubs. And of course in the interest of perfect symmetry, chicken knitting circles.

"stylin' the sweater swag"

And I knew right then that I could never, ever hope to compete with the folks out there who minister to "special needs" chickens. That I would never, ever own a chicken plucker, hen catcher, brooder clamp lamp, egg candler, or
a pair of clip-on chicken blinders. That I would never, ever
obsess about depressed hens, droopy roosters, or how to quantify a chicken's intelligence. Nor would I ever, EVER, discuss the merits of whether to wash or not wash a poo-covered egg that had been deposited by an obliging hen.
I mean really.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Tunnel Of Love

My step-daughter died Sept. 18, 2012, one month short of her 20th birthday.
The months leading up to her death and those that came 
immediately after were unlike any I have ever experienced...

It seems to me that looking backward is like trying to see the end of a tunnel through a telescope lightly smeared with petroleum jelly. Everything appears sort of fuzzy and small, and I frequently wonder, "What was really going on then?" Usually I can capture at least some sense of what I was feeling at the time. Often it translates into a vague sensation that borders on itchiness. 

These past twenty months have been raggedly and alarmingly disjointed for me. Most of the time I've felt 
either enraged or numb or just flat-out crazy. Remembering the awful events that unfolded with such unrelenting, inevitable determination brings with it a lurching, clutching dread that can leave me feeling incredibly fragmented, bereft, and nauseous. Who manages to survive the death of a child with any sanity intact?  (Pre-supposing, of course, that sanity was extant to being with.) How do I walk through the rest of my life carrying the sorrow as lightly as I possibly can? What happens next? I decided to revisit the few sketchy journal entries I made at the time to see if I could recapture my own personal zeitgeist and look at it through the lens of the here and now. And maybe find some emotional glue.

"16 November 2012: At 1:45 am I found myself outside in freezing cold weather wearing a nightgown, a parka, and a pair of Hello Kitty slippers. I had come to gather the last graying stalks of lavender ...cutting them willy nilly with a rather dull pair of secateurs. I was there because the Universe had instructed me to be so. I just kept hoping that the police would not show up and find me - a 61 year old woman with wild gray curly hair holding a bag of dead lavender stalks and wearing fuzzy slippers that had bright red sequins on them. I looked like an exotic, demented penguin. But the Universe had spoken - and I obeyed. 
What other choice did I have?"

Ok. So perhaps I was acting a bit eccentrically. Possibly.


"21 November 2012: I felt wild, fierce grief rise up in me. I was so agitated - I howled and railed and cried until I felt like my head would implode. I was teetering on the cusp of madness when a voice inside me whispered, 'Go outside. 
Eat lettuce.' So I did. At 2:00 am I sat bundled up against the cold night air and ate an entire head of lettuce. Lettuce. Just lettuce. Such a soothing food."

Ok. Lettuce is healthy, right? Right.


"22 November 2012: "I feel a tremendous amount of comfort, serenity and peace when Grandfather North Wind arrives each year. I am a child of that wind and I am a woman entering the House of The North Wind as my life slows and age overtakes me. My fondest wish is that when I have fully arrived at the end of my own life and leave this existence, that I will become a tree. Sinking my roots deep into a mountainside covered with snow in the company of other trees. I hope that the winter white hare will grace me with a burrow dug into my roots and trunk, and that chickadees and cardinals will come to roost in my boughs and branches. I can imagine no better way to exist."


Ok. Some of my favorite people are trees. Seriously. 
I was also obsessed with pomegranates. Many of the haphazard journal entries contained some form of ode to the pomegranate.  Some were made up of little else than expressions of insatiable longing and desire for this odd, delicious fruit. And, yes, I believe the North Wind has a life of its own.

"28 November 2012: "Standing barefoot in a snowstorm at 3:00 am feeling large feathery flakes caress my cheeks. Eating pomegranate seeds makes me feel as though I am planting new life inside me."

Time to put on the "here and now goggles". What I'm seeing for the first time as I revisit my journal is a complex tale fraught with heartbreak, conflict and soul bruising tragedy punctuated by confusion, absurdity and ennui. An epic of bloody familial struggle, anxiety, deprivation, endurance, and finally capitulation that makes Game of Thrones read like Mother Goose. A richly patterned, shimmering, dreadful wonder of a tale. Not a series of intense, 
unconnected, unrelated, piece-meal or patchwork dramas such as I experienced at the time. No. Whole cloth. All of us who were the threads woven into this particular tapestry had unspoken assigned roles, and expectations were adamantine and unyielding. What none of us had ever been told, however, was just how crystalline and paralyzing the machinations of death can be for those watching it happen first hand. There were fights, there were tears...oh, lots of tears, uneasy truces were drawn, and the kind of unlikely alliances made that can only happen between members of a dysfunctional, extended family. I longed to be merely miserable. Misery would have been a step up on the most treacherous emotional ladder I've ever tried to scale. Through it all I had the feeling that whatever I did it wasn't enough, that there should have been something I could do, say, make or find that would turn the whole ugly process around. The guilt was crushing. The routines were mind-numbingly dull. The smells institutional. The hissing of befuddling machinery interminable  The waiting excruciating. And the witnessing, oh... the witnessing. Because, after all, the only thing that any of us could really do was bear witness. Be there, be present, be available. Everyone involved was struggling to keep their head above water. Some of us fared better than others. 


It's been ten months since Evlin died - just about the same amount time it took for the leukemia to run its course. When she passed we stood around her bedside and sang her soul to the mountain - wishing her deep peace on her journey and forever after. That was an act of grace that will be forever emblazoned in my mind and on my heart. The songs that were sung will always belong to her. In that moment all of us were profoundly and irreversibly changed. 

So, what tidbits of inner wisdom have I gleaned from this 
retrospective exercise? Well, most importantly, I've learned (once again) that if I listen to whatever the Universe is telling me to do I will find peace. I've learned that if I listen to my inner wise woman I will find peace. And I've learned that if I trust myself to nourish my spirit I will find peace. That's it. Simple. Last year I was doing the best I could in really horrific circumstances, all the while beating myself up for what I thought of as my odd behavioral quirks and character deficiencies. Looking back at it now from the cushioned distance of time I can find not only pathos but humor, and a new feeling of gentle tenderness toward myself. 


Yes, I am eccentric. Yes, I eat heads of lettuce on freezing cold nights sitting out on my balcony, and yes, I really do want to become a tree. And that's all ok. Really, really ok. Finally. From now on when I look back at that time I will be able to see myself from a new perspective. I will look with respect and compassion for the woman who endured. I'll look through my own personal tunnel of love.



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Deck Chairs On The Titanic

I dither. I dither a lot. I am an unrepentant ditherer. Subsequently, long periods of time can elapse before I complete a project, a book, a piece of art, a sandwich, a blog. There is always something to lead me away from whatever it is that I'm doing at the time. This is not procrastination. Seriously. On any given day I can manage to find myself with a multitude of "works in progress". Half started, almost done, stuck in the middle of, completely stymied by and oh, why don't I go and play a video game... I am certain that I am not alone in this. There must be thousands, if not millions, of people out there who earnestly, and with all good intentions of staying on task, start to do something and wander off at some point when another thing absolutely, positively must be done at once. Or have a brainstorm about how to arrange, solve, repair that "thing" that desperately needs it. Now. Or realize it's time to google cute cat pictures. Or sit and count how many commas they used in the last two sentences they wrote. Or play with the plastic Jean-Luc Picard Star Trek action figure presiding over the mutterings. Whatever.




Take today for example. I decided to sit down and make a list of all the things I could think of that I haven't done that I used to do and that I really enjoy doing. It didn't take long. There were only four items:

Making art
Walking around Clark Pond
Celebrating seasonal changes with ritual and/or ceremony
Writing my blog

I looked at the date of my last blog. April 2011. What the hell have I been doing? Had I really dithered two years of my life away? Then I stopped, smacked myself in the head with an imaginary rolled up newspaper, and tried to come to grips with the fact that the last two years of my life really have been about unfinished business, loss of momentum, frustration, futility, tragedy, havoc, and discontinuity. I was hospitalized with an over-the-top allergic reaction to some new medication. I fell and broke my ribs. My husband had surgery. My beloved cat Sissy died. A month later my 19 year old stepdaughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. Ten months after that she died.



And then came darkness. I was totally adrift. I dithered. About everything. And I kept right on dithering until just a couple of weeks ago, when two things happened that stopped me in my tracks and enabled me to find my feet again. For these two events I will be eternally grateful. Both involved connecting with two wonderful women - one a cherished friend long estranged, the other a fabulous long distance friend that I had never actually met. The confluence of these two formidable forces of nature crossing my path within 24 hours of each other made me sit up and say, "Hey... Pay attention! Something very, very cosmic is afoot." I tentatively started a new project, cooked some really lovely fresh local food, bought a bathing suit (!!), started to heal, and began to re-ground myself in the here and now. I started to find closure of sorts.  The incredible, elegant synchronicity of all that had set the mysterious, incomprehensible wheels of change in motion. So now I find myself back here -  sitting in front of my computer, listening to old jazz and sorting through the silly string that's taken up residence in my head. And deciding to leave the bloody deck chairs alone. Land ho.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ruby Red Beach Glass


There are a few things in life that I can honestly say that I am really, really good at. Walking the beach probably tops the list of my all-time greatest accomplishments. I have walked the entire length of the eastern seaboard here in the US and most of its west coast too. The beaches of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia are particular favorites. I've walked the beaches of Mississippi, Alabama, the panhandle of Florida, Puerto Rico and some of the Caribbean Islands. Beaches in Hawaii, beaches in Ireland, beaches in Italy. When I moved here to Magnolia, I never dreamed that a smallish, crescent-shaped, stony, kelp-laden cove, would turn out to be my favorite beach in the world. Both ends of the cove are anchored by large granite outcroppings, but one end is more massive, wilder and more spectacular in a storm. It is also the end that marks the beginning of the land on which my revered spirit home, Clarke Pond is located. It's a magnificent, ancient place where the tree line stops at the water's edge and the trail into the forest begins. A magical spot.

The entire beach is only about six/tenths of a mile long and at low tide you can smell it for blocks. It's a smell that makes most people wrinkle their noses with distaste, but I love it. It is the smell of primordial soup - the place we all crawled out of so long ago. Somewhere in my limbic brain I hear a tiny voice murmur, "home". And I am inexorably drawn towards it. I can spend hours mucking about in the long thick strands of seaweeds and various varieties of kelp that lie piled knee-high along a third of the beach where the prevailing current deposits them. Particularly after a whopping, big storm... Magnolia Beach becomes the recycle repository for all the flotsam and jetsam that humankind and nature can heave up. I've seen some amazing things tangled in the kelp: a dead deer, a conch shell (native to Florida - what a tale it could have told!) large parts of boats, a baby seal, a small completely intact shrine to the Virgin Mary, animal bones that defy description, an entire garden's worth of tomatoes, bits of broken dishes, and always the inevitable bits and pieces of plastic. And beach glass. Lots and lots of beach glass.


Bottle stopper

I am a beach glass junkie. There are many, many containers of all types around our home with nothing but beach glass in them. Most are sitting on window sills to catch the light. I've found a few pieces of glass over the years that I consider extraordinary: a piece of large, flat, clouded-white glass with chicken wire embedded in it (what on earth?), a beautiful piece of amber glass with a lovely raised design, a bottle stopper, an old marble perfectly eroded, and the handle of some type of cup. Fabulous treasures one and all. There are the very few, deeply cherished, small cobalt blue pieces. I have glass that spans the colors of the rainbow, delicate lilac, baby pink, deep olive... all absolutely gorgeous. But no red. 

Red is the holy grail of beach glass for most collectors... at least it always has been for me. I have browns that dissemble in the light and ambers that flirt with distant cousin reddish hues. But no red. I have combed beaches for 40 years looking for glass, throwing back those pieces, no matter how lovely the color (not red) because they "weren't done yet", gathering, always gathering. But no red. Until now.


Imagine my surprise when my beloved David and I were walking Magnolia Beach a few days ago, both of us having wandered off in different directions in silent reverie. Imagine again my surprise when David came causally strolling up, telling me to close my eyes and hold out my hand (a process I generally loathe). Imagine me practically fainting when I opened my eyes to see the largest, most perfect ruby red piece of beach glass laying in my upturned hand. He said simply, "I thought you might like this". I was literally shell-shocked...well, in this case glass-shocked, but the effect is the same I assure you. Needless to say I lost whatever dignity I possess and proceeded to squee right there on the beach for a good 5 minutes. David stood calmly smiling his Buddha smile, his eyes twinkling. Suddenly an odd, overwhelming sense of place struck me and I realized we were standing by the opening to the Clarke Pond trail. I had just been offered the perfect token - the spirits inviting me once again to walk the most sacred path where the veil on earth is thinnest for me, and all things are absolutely possible. 

Just look at my ruby red beach glass.


Glass cup handle

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mirror, Mirror...Who am I?

It is infinitely heart-breaking to meet her glance
Who was it that said that "An unexamined life is not worth living."? Oh yes. Socrates. It's a phrase that has served as a lodestar for me my entire adult life, a philosophy that set me on a journey of self discovery that began when I was about twelve years old. Naturally at that age I had a fairly limited idea about what formed the concept of examining oneself. But I began the process of looking about to see how I felt about things in general. The sum total of my efforts at that point culminated with the knowledge that the entire smorgasbord of organized world religions had absolutely nothing to offer me whatsoever. I was astonished by the revelation. And so I was off, discovering this, that and the other thing that I didn't like, and as time went by I became increasingly vocal in my opinions, particularly about what I found wrong with the world around me. After all, wasn't I examining myself by evaluating the world in which I lived? I found that a healthy dose of self-righteousness mixed in with intelligent critical thinking was really the way the world should be viewed. And not just by me. But by one and all. And according to my principles.

I'm not sure when the slap in the face. came. It might have been in a drug-induced haze in my 20s, or possibly as a bolt of lightening that shot through me from a simple phrase in a book I was reading at the time (which is not at all an unlikely way for enlightenment to come to me). Whatever. I found myself suddenly struck by the absurdly painful notion that a self examined life meant that one actually examines oneself, looks under the hidden rocks, opens the closet doors, digs through the primal ooze of ego, shame, blame, and a lifetime full of false beliefs. So I responded to the whole idea in the only way that made sense to me. I began to drink. And kept on drinking for the next 20 years. Drugs fell by the wayside (too paranoid), cigarettes were life threatening (I accidentally set my sweater on fire when I was shit-faced one night). It was only after I stopped drinking (another story altogether) that I started reluctantly tried to put into practice the concept that had so horrified me years earlier. I had help. Lots of help. Good friends. Good therapists. Great lessons from the universe. Then, at some point I learned that this was an ongoing process, that I wouldn't wake up one morning and say "Right, got it, all examined, all fixed, let's go for tea". Depression set in. And stayed for a long, unwelcome visit like a bad house guest. 

After this had gone on for a bit I began to hear an annoyingly persistent voice, whose origin I couldn't quite identify, keep whispering in my ear, "Go for a walk in the woods." So I did. Then I went again. And again. Soon it became a regular and remembered cherished habit. I started to reconnect with nature. I had been a park ranger for nine years and had switched careers to be a graphic designer. I had spent less and less time outside. Big mistake. As I started listening to the voices of the natural world outside all around me I began to find my own inner voice, waiting patiently to be heard... And that it was worth actually listening to. I was hearing with my inner self - my spirit and my heart. When I discovered that all the voices were coming from the same source I was joyously mystified. Mystified. Steeped in Mystery. I love both of these states of being as one directly reflects the other. I love the world's mysteries, and I love the fact that my own inner mysteries are always, always somehow connected to the outer mystery presenting itself at the time. I learned a new word to describe this phenomena - synchronicity. A truly self examined life meant reflection. Inner meet Outer. As above, so below. Socrates....very cool, dude.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fast Forward


So much can happen in two years. We all know about the big stuff - the natural disasters that change the face of our planet, the environmental catastrophes that threaten to wipe out large ecosystems, the horrific acts of violence and terror that human beings inflict on one another, the surprising new faces on the worldwide political stage, the riveting acts of heroic ordinary people determined to help one another survive despite seemingly insurmountable odds. These are the things that engage our collective attention.


But the day-to-day happenings of life for most of us of are generally made up of smaller scale dramas, the mundane events that make our small worlds go 'round. "What, my invitation to the party got lost in the mail?"  "No, I am not driving all the to the mall to bring you your cell phone." "They want how much to fix the car?" I have been away from this blog for two years living out my own scenarios. I don't want to spend a whole lot of time and detail about what has happened, so here's..
The Nutshell: my friend (who originally inspired this blog) survived her cancer and is doing well. Sadly, our friendship did not survive. Sometime during the rehabilitation phase of her illness things became completely unglued. The reasons are complex and really, the less said the better. Leave it at that I am sad for the loss. On the totally opposite end of the spectrum, I got married to a wonderful man I have known as a friend for the last 10 years. This joyous event has also served to alter my personal landscape in unexpected ways, catapulting me into a new life. I now have step-children, mostly grown, thankfully. I have acquired a large new musical family, as he is a musician. I have been married before, as has he, but we are finding that middle-aged love is vastly different than young love. It feels like it has more emotional, spiritual, and intellectual "meat" and less hormonal "heat", if you will.  Needless to say we are both delighted with the "meat:heat" ratio and are very much in love. Despite, or perhaps because of, sagging bellys, bad backs, and worn out knees.


Finally, factor in some rather unfortunate and severe health issues that I've been visited by in the past two years and life just went whizzing by while this blog lay fallow - patiently awaiting a new Spring when long-awaited tending would begin anew. Well, Spring has arrived! This blog was begun in Spring two years ago and is being resurrected again in Spring. The wheel turns and brings us back to new beginnings. So rambles will again be recounted, cat tales may abound, and my love and stewardship of the earth will devotedly continue....maybe even more strongly than before. Time has a way of altering the lens though which we perceive what is important to us. And I now know that this Earth is who and what I am most connected to in this life. I love my family, I love my friends, and I love the new opportunities that await me as my mental foliage unfolds once more.

It's an "Oh Auntie Em, there's no place like home" moment.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Queen of All She Surveys

Living with a elderly cat who has wandered gradually into a state of dementia has been one of the more interesting experiences of my adult life. My beloved Sissy, who is now 19 years old, has begun to exhibit behaviors and traits that are eerily familiar and, I have to admit, extremely unsettling. It's a lot of like watching what happened to my grandmother before she died. Well it would be, that is, if my grandmother had had four legs and a cheap fur coat... ok, four legs anyway. There's the basic befuddlement - walking into a room, stopping, looking around and wondering, "Where am I going and why am I in this hand-basket". Understandable...happens to me all the time. And the deafness...sure, that comes to all of us with age. The fact that I can walk up behind her loudly calling out her name and she still jumps a foot if I reach out and touch her is, I am ashamed to admit, sometimes comical (I feel SO guilty). The wobbly gait, the constant visits to the litter-box (where she has been known to exhibit the same "Huh? Where am I?" expression mentioned above) are completely old-age appropriate and every woman over the age of 45 or so can totally identify with the "more frequent visits to the litter-box" thing, let me tell you. Then there's the flatulence. The less said about that the better. She sleeps more (is that even possible for a cat?), she eats less, and she has turned into "Velcro Kitty", wanting to stand on my full bladder wearing her little kitty toe-shoes at every possible opportunity. I get all that. What is troubling almost to the point of sleep-deprived madness is her new habit of jumping up onto the bed in the middle of the night, walking right up next to my ear and screaming at the top of her little kitty lungs - the sound of which, for anyone who has ever experienced the same sort of phenomena in a tiny baby, is inversely (and I might add, perversely) proportionate to her size. My cat weighs 5 pounds. If I'm doing the math right her voice strikes my eardrum at a glass shattering 130 decibels (the benchmark for the threshold of acoustical pain). She then proceeds to walk around the house making a noise that, for lack of a better description, sounds like badly-tuned bagpipes being played by a monkey on crack imitating a wounded badger. With a hangover. And a chip on his shoulder. This goes on for an hour or so. It's oddly reminiscent of many of the trips I took to the nursing home to see my grandmother in her final days, when she had absolutely no idea who I was. I'd be walking down the hall after a sad and frustrating visit, and I'd hear a voice, wailing, shrieking, and crying out so loudly that my head would automatically whip around in panic stricken hyper-alertness to find the source of what seemed to me to be "the sound of ultimate suffering". As I'd be trying to decide whether or not a life threatening emergency existed, I would finally be able to make out a single, demanding word... being screamed over, and over, and over... "NURSE!!!!" - each petition being punctuated viciously with the manic buzzing of a call button being repeatedly, incessantly and relentlessly mashed by a 98 pound woman who could probably have bench-pressed my car. My Vet describes this behavior from my cat, known as "increased nocturnal vocalizations", as "fairly typical in cats with dementia". Well yes, I suppose so if that's the diagnostic term for it (what choice do I have..."I'm an artist, Jim, not a doctor"), but it is still disconcerting as hell. What I find to be the most distressing part is not that my adored kitty has turned into a crotchety, old woman who fusses and frets constantly. No, what makes me really stop, bend over and loosen my shoes is the thought that one day *I* may be the old lady with the demonic buzzer in my hand - clutching it desperately like a lifeline - trying to telegraph to anyone who will listen my desperate life-affirming pleas for attention, affection and some semblance of dignity. If so, then, I will promise to do my best not to sneak up on anyone in the middle of the night and scream loudly in their ear....on the other hand.....

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Go Like the Raven

"Woodpecker woman chip away, whittle,
Carve my name on a hick'ry fiddle,
Dance all night, dream just a little,
I go like the raven..."
~Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer~


Ravens, for me, have always been the most fascinating birds in myths, stories and legends. So many aboriginal, indigenous and ancient cultures have believed that the raven had incredibly powerful qualities influencing some, if not all, of their original creation myths, with this ubiquitous bird possessing different attributes for whichever group of people you study. The raven: sometimes the Fearful Harbinger of Woe or Reviled Scavenger of Death. Sometimes the Triumphant Herald of War bringing with it the assurance of victory, glory, and valor. Sometimes the sly, unscrupulous, cosmic Trickster. Sometimes the Revered Messenger of The Gods or, for some, the Creator of the universe itself. For some reason (or perhaps all of the above) I have always identified with the raven. It is, in fact, my "totem" animal - presenting one or more faces of its many faceted persona in my life at all times. Right now Raven seems to be the Herald of War, with my friend's upcoming fearsome battle with cancer as its manifestation. Here also at this moment in time is the ever-present Trickster (my personal favorite) because nothing in life ever *really* goes according to plan - somehow we humans think that we're actually in control of the outcome of any situation. Still... Recognizing that, I have decided to try and summon the Revered Messenger of The Gods, inviting that particular spirit aspect to come, sit down and have tea with me - so that I can ever-so-calmly (and, of course, with great respect) say,"Okay, you sly bastard, let's get to work here to make this right. I want to be able to shout from the rooftops about the demise of my friend's illness". Then I step back, take a breath, and realize once again that this, too, is out of my control. It's an unrelenting, ongoing and sometimes vicious struggle for me to bear in mind that this has nothing to do with what *I* want. This is a journey that my friend is on and I am merely the "wingwoman", as it were. I will coordinate the schedule of rotating cooks, visitors, helpers, drivers, shoppers and advocates. But I pray that as I do so Raven will be covering my back, sitting upon my shoulder whispering wise words, clearing the path ahead of obstacles, and flying shotgun for me. I pray that the wild, fierce, warrior energy of Raven will be able to partner with the peaceful, gentle, healing energy of good health. I pray most fervently for my friend to be well. And, since I am in full-on prayer mode, I would ask for one more thing...let the "ravens of unresting thought" (thank you, Mr. Yeats) be stilled, so that I may fasten my seatbelt, hold on to my hat, and get on this roller-coaster with a clear and accepting heart. So that I, too, may go like the raven.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Clarke Pond

 A drawing from an old sketchbook of the trail
Clarke Pond is part of a small patch of conservation property not far from my home. I like to think of it as my own personal walking meditation place. It's a lovely spot - seasonally a home to ducks, geese, egrets, herons, kingfishers, red-winged blackbirds, and a layover for other migrating waterfowl as well as a huge variety of birds traveling along the Eastern Atlantic Flyway. It's bordered on one side by a beach hammered by the wild and gray Atlantic Ocean, and on the other by salt marsh, low-lying swampy wetlands and large outcroppings of granite hosting a mixed hardwood and conifer forest. In other words - an absolute cornucopia of habitats for all sorts of animals - furred, feathered and scaled. There are a few trails running through the property, none of them very demanding for the hardened hiker, yet somehow just perfect for rumination, brief vertical challenges and rocky, ankle-twisting mindfulness.

It is a place of profound solace for me - the place I head when I need to calm the "monkey-mind" that invariably tangles me up as a result of living immersed in the craziness of the modern world. I never fail to come away without some form of "treasure" after having spent an hour or so wandering about. Treasure is a concept that I'm learning to redefine in very different terms these days - a pure white, downy feather snagged on a thin tree limb, waving madly in the wind like a small flag of universal surrender or perhaps semaphore to the unknown in a language now lost. A sand dollar washed up completely intact on a beach dense with tide-tumbled stones of all sizes and shapes. A stick with the letter "C" carved into it by some small worm or cellulose loving insect. The perfect stone with which to make a talisman for a friend far away. These are the tangible treasures that I can take with me. These are the cherished renderings of the ground I walk, the gifts of the natural world. But today there was another kind of treasure that found me. One completely unlooked for, completely unseen by the eye that sees the "world as it is". As I rambled about I was suddenly overcome with the most profound feeling of gratitude that I have ever experienced for the gift of all the friendships that I have been blessed with. Friendship is one of life's greatest intangible treasures, seen only with the "inner" eye - the eye of the heart - and I knew at that moment that I had connected to that sacred thread that links us all together, makes us love each other, and humbles us in the face of tragedy. I left Clarke Pond, the biting wind off the North Atlantic stinging my face as I slogged my way up the beach - headed home with full pockets, a full heart, and eager anticipation for the cup of cocoa waiting for me at home. And talk about treasure...don't even get me started on the virtues of chocolate.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Absolute Zero

Today is the launch of my blog. My best friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer. This space is dedicated to her and the journey we will take together. It will be my safe haven for musing, raging, ranting, and hopefully healing. I shall try to live my own message - I will begin to walk the words in order to find the space between and take away whatever wisdom is revealed on any given day. Today the brush has been cleared, so now I must set out on this unknown path - following in the footsteps of all who have gone before me.