Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ode to the Journeyman

Long before dawn has broken the night,
And the sun has chased off the chills,
The Journeyman readies himself for his flight,
Over rivers and valleys and hills. 

The Ford is his stallion, the map is his guide, 
He's not short on places to be. 
A foreman's no better than the men at his side, 
"Go hard or go home!" is his decree. 

Harness and lanyard, wire and reel, 
His gear and devices are plenty. 
Spud bar and klines, iron and steel, 
With tools on, he always is ready. 

Up walls, on columns, along a bridge deck,
He ties all the pieces together. 
In frigid cold, humid heat, whatever the heck, 
He works hard, no matter the weather. 

It takes a strong man to hold down this job, 
His paycheck is honestly earned. 
Blood, sweat, and grit are the way of the rod;
He embodies the skills he has learned. 

A Hermit, a Wild Child, and a Dog Walk Into the Woods

On this day...I was walking with my daughter and Buster down over the hill behind our home, through the beautiful wooded path that leads to the two small run-off ponds that pool on the ferny forest floor, and as I was taking in the normal calming scenery I realized something that many people might not understand about my seclusion. The Hermit's Nest is so much more than just the house! I get the whole damn forest! I think some people assume that because I struggle with depression and anxiety that I am wallowing and broken, hiding in the woods, melted into the couch with pillows over my head avoiding life. Don't get me wrong, that does happen on occasion, but a lot of the time people just suck and honestly I prefer trees to many humans. I'm not hiding, I am exposing myself. I just prefer to do it by myself. So, why wouldn't I be a hermit? Why wouldn't I want to spend the majority of my days enjoying this land with my favorite mini-person and best fur friend? It finally just made sense to me and I didn't feel guilty or wrong, but deliberate. Can you blame me? We are blessed enough to have an amazing little chunk of pretty to enjoy daily. I am blessed enough to have the luxury of staying home and raising my daughter and we live IN the woods. I am surrounded by trees and nature. The Divine Spirit is all around us just waiting to be observed.

As Skynard sang, "I ain't trying to put down no big city!" but I am not a "flatlander" or a "townie" and I am very grateful for that. It has made me who I am. I am a mountain girl, born on a mountain top, raised in the woods and grown on the hillside. I'm not scared that I'm going to be eaten by bears or get lost. I know that deer are not inclined to attack me. I mean, that's always a possibility, but don't ever let that keep you from going into the woods. 

We visited the ponds for the second or third time that day and then we went down another path to an area that Celie refers to as "our secret hideout" where I will sometimes sit cross-legged and let her and Buster explore the smells, sights and sounds while I commune with nature. This time there was a small token to be found, two feathers that were right in our spot. A gift! We collected them with gratitude, and then made our way back up to the house. It's wonderful to be able to simply step out of your back door and into a different world, one that centers you and brings you back to your Self. When either of us has become overstimulated we can easily take a walk "down over the hill" and recharge. Nature is definitely a depression hack.

Sometimes I question my unconventional parenting style, like the fact that my kid did not have any shoes on for this entire stroll. But it's hard to keep shoes on the girl, she loves to be barefoot and wiggle her toes and there is nothing wrong with that! At times, though, I doubt my judgements, like most mothers. I wonder if I'm being too permissive or irresponsible but then I remember that I was raised similarly and perhaps that's why I am drawn to nature for sanctuary and solace. Fuck it! She sprints across gravel, her feet are like mountain goat hooves---I'm almost convinced that she could walk across hot coals. When she gets cuts or splinters, I tend to them with black salve, like my Pap used to use on his cows. Afterall, wounds and filth are caused by what childhood is supposed to be all about, exploration and learning! 

I squatted in the woods growing up, I wiped with the leaves, I ran barefoot and was constantly covered in bruises, cuts and scratches. My ankles were perpetually torn up from the trip vine jaggers, burdocks were always stuck to my clothes, and I spent my days leaping over logs and sprinting through tall grasses, with the scent of pond mud and the sulfar creek in my hair. I was free-range! I think that my daughter is a good mix for a modern kid; she enjoys Minecraft and her tablet but she can also appreciate the way of the woods and get down like the wild thing that she is! Despite judgements, I think I'm doing just fine. 

I consider us incredibly lucky to live here. In drifting you will always find your own way and we have learned that there is more than meets the eye down over the hill. There are no sidewalks here, only paths. I am inspired by this place just as Thoreau was by Walden Pond; I'm a writer living in the woods, why wouldn't I be a hermit?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ode to My Daughter

Her eyes well with wonder;
She looks up to the stars.
Her voice is like thunder.
She is beautiful, bizarre.

Her hair is like corn silk.
She's wild and free. 
Her skin is like fresh milk. 
She stings like a bee. 

Her smile is magic. 
She's seldom seen sad. 
Her anger is tragic;
She's tough when she's mad. 

Her compassion astounds me.
She forgives and forgets. 
Her kindness is lasting;
She gives what she gets. 

Her love is a gift;
She laughs, it's a treasure.
Her life is a wish. 
She lives for this pleasure. 

Dear Daughter, always growing.
Today you are turning five!
To my heart, you are showing,
The joys of being alive. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

“Forever Young Harry” and the True Self-Made Man

A couple of months ago, I took my friend to a doctor’s appointment to get her cast changed; she had recently broken her ankle and the cast she had was not going to make it through the healing. I agreed to drive her over to her appointment and just sit in the waiting room with my daughter and sister until she was done. During our brief time in that waiting room we had the most extraordinary encounter with a most extraordinary man; this man was a student of life, forever curious and exceptionally friendly. He wore a U.S. Navy ball cap and a calm, knowing grin. I now refer to this man in conversations as “Forever Young Harry” and he was a real breath of fresh air in the normally stale and stagnant waiting room of life.

As it is designed, everything we encounter in one way or another reflects our inner world at the time or soon to it or a little prior. “As within, so without.” Harry was a prime example of this, and of many other things for that matter. The man arrived to the office after us and had a seat diagonally across from my daughter and I. He was an older gentleman, 88, to be exact, as I would soon learn. He seemed to have a permanent semi smile on his face, as though his lips knew not what a frown should be. He had one of the most child-like positive vibes that I have witnessed for an older fellow. It was reminiscent of my Grandmother’s energy; in her devout old age she still retained a perpetual child-like curiosity for life in her heart. He immediately started eying up my daughter, an act that always makes a mother’s antenna come out and so I felt him out as I saw him watching her. He wasn’t a creepy old man, though, far from it, and as he started to speak to her directly, you could tell he was simply curious and delighted in her youthful presence.

He started speaking to me freely and openly like we were old friends, he wasn’t bashful at all, almost to a comedic degree. Watching him interact with others in the room made me realize how people mostly enjoy sitting together in mutual silence in public places, unaware of the intimacy that could be taking place. Harry seemed well aware of this opportunity. In fact, Harry seemed very aware, in general. I think he started the conversation by commenting on my face and hat, he was checking me out but not in an uncomfortable way, just as though everything was a work of art. I think the tattoo on my forearm had originally caught his attention. He mentioned that he “studied” things, he even used the word study, which delighted me. He said about studying the birds and the trees and how much he enjoys these simple pleasures. When he told me how much he loves trees, I could feel my heart grow into his a little. He said about being able to study things, like my face and then draw it perfectly later at home. Harry was an observing artist and it was evident by the way that he took in the world. I will never know if a sketch of my wire frames and wild mane are in the man’s sketchbook somewhere, or just floating around in his keen memory. He had a real zest for life, and he apparently lived a good one.

He eagerly began to tell me a good amount of his life’s story, at least the amount of any one life that can be reduced down to words that will fit in about 45 minutes worth of time. He was a veteran, having served in World War II in the Navy, he told me tales of his days in the service. He said about how much sign language he spoke on the ship and then spelled out his name, “H-A-R-R-Y! That’s my name!” Harry said that it was his job on the ship to assign everyone to the position that they would be best suited for. It was his job, essentially, to get to know you intimately in a short amount of time; I guess you could say, long enough to feel out what you are good at and send you there. Oh, the adventures aboard his ship! He delighted in sharing them. What he left out in words, he conveyed in emotion and energy; his eyes were an open door. I took his station, getting to know him intimately in a short amount of time. Once when they were stationed in Texas, everyone on the ship got the same tattoo from this woman tattoo artist, who he said had tattoos on the back of her eyelids! His tattoo, though faded and spread, held strong to its symbol even without the clear image; for being embedded in an 88 year old canvas, it wasn’t too bad, surprisingly.

He shared his memory of the day that it was announced over the speakers on the ship that WWII was over. His temporary life at sea, all that he had grown to know, had come to an end. After the war, he worked flying in planes plotting new roads, exciting work for Harry, who loved seeing things from a different perspective. This took him to different places and he shared about his years in Niagra Falls; though beautiful, he said they were the coldest of winters he had ever known. He was settled locally now. “If you’re ever out on Orchard Street drop by!” he invited, a couple of times, actually. He spoke of his wife, and family. He expressed his love of children and told how just the last week they had their grandchildren over and he had one on his back and a few in a wagon pulling them around. “I was just as excited as they were!” He said how his wife gets on him, worrying about his rough-housing still at 88 years old. “I could walk 5 miles home, right now!” he told me. I’d believe it! His wife was there that day to have an x-ray of her hand, and she was still back with the doctor when it was time for us to leave. We said our good-byes with smiles and warm wishes; as we were leaving I told the man “You stay forever young, Harry!” He smiled and chuckled back at me, “I’m trying!” I was never so sure of a promise in my life. “You certainly are!” I told him.

Much of life is Ego versus Soul. We fight against ourselves and sabotage our spirits as parts of us try to thwart our plans for personal growth, but it is only in vain if we honestly want to live a satisfying life. I think that the goal of life is to end up like Harry, to be driven and steered by your innately curious and compassionate True Self, not the imaginary, interjecting parts of Ego. Harry was a remarkable guy; he was the inner child Self-actuated. Harry was 88 years old and still thrilled by life daily, fascinated by it, drawn to study the wonder of its beauties. I pray that if I make it to 88 years old, I am able to retain that sense of wonderment and awe. I want to remain just as full and whole as Forever Young Harry. Nobody wants to end their days just sitting there, bitter, broken, and emptied out by their story. I think we can all learn a lesson from the man, I know that I have. People like Harry are important because they are a reminder that it is possible to be youthful at any age. Here’s to hoping that if I make it to 88 years young I am still kicking and grinning, still singing and living, still simply LIVING after all of those years, and, like Harry, doing my best to stay forever young.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Peripheral Eternity

What can be said?
How do all of the words in my lexicon sound together at once? 
There are no words.
There aren't enough words.
There are too many words. 
Nothing expresses everything except the void; you are the void to me. 
You are every thing.
You are no thing. 
There are too many words and things between us. 
Far too much logic, too much space, too much science. 
I don't want to know you analytically, but biblically, spiritually---how the stars know the Maker that we foolishly search for with numbers. 
I want to know the Truth beyond language. 
I want to know the inner light that projects you into this garden of dreams. 

August 15, 2015 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Seoul Searching in the Mirror

This summer my sister came home for a visit from Seoul, Korea, where she has been living for the past three years. It was so very good to see her again. During her stay she helped me take care of my Self and simultaneously forget my Self. With her and my other younger sister, we automatically, and perhaps systematically, fell into group self-nurturing behaviors and traditions, essentially what you could call The Unwinding Process. Because we all get wound up from Life, right?! My sister gets wound up in her Korean life, assimilating amazingly into their culture, and she likes to come home and binge on her comforts for a short time in order to go be her bad ass Self once again for an extended time. She came home for a whole month this time. This time her visit, as usual, was essential and timely, a real gift. She also gave me another gift that, I think, of course, is a metaphor. 

The Unwinding Process traditionally consists of consumption, including but not limited to varying and mostly excessive amounts of alcohol, food stuff, and multimedia intake, balanced with bouts of emotional release, via tears and laughter. Why? Serotonin. But more importantly, oxytocin. The bonding hormone unites and only heavily bonded and blended sisters can understand how essential this mutual process of The Unwind is. Individual Unwind is essential as well, but group Unwind...that's where it's at. It's mutual, a symbiosis. It's a take-a-load-off-Fanny, kind of necessary weighted shit. And, so, the Unwind began. The Twizzlers were bought. The boxed wine was drank, the movies were watched. Take out and take in; The Gilmore Girls and The Golden Girls. The nights were late and the days were sleepy; a haze settled. We had some healing times together; we had missed the rhythm of our mutual coping mechanisms and the comfort of each other's presence. The progeny patchwork quilt all blanketed back together. All together; three sisters. It completes the girl circuit. In a world full of every kind of girl but me, my sisters are the closest thing to me that there is, and the feeling is mutual. Nobody gets you like your See-Star! Together we are the feminine whole of our family's genes, the closest thing to ourselves out there, DNA-wise. There is strength in that, a bond like no other, unstoppable love and acceptance. 

Within the comfort of our sisterly union, there is also a tremendous chance for reflection, which is a blessing. A lot of families don't have siblings that get along as well as we do, and believe me, it hasn't been easy, but sibling love is more solid than rivalry. We are each so different and complete, our own distinct note alone...but we blend into one stellar organic triad when we play together. Connections like that are what life is all about...harmonizing. Resonating and harmonizing. 

My sister is what I would consider a feminist. She has, what I tell her, ovaries of solid rock. You would have to, wouldn't you? To move to the other end of the Earth from your family, to live in one of the largest cities in the world by herself, as a woman, to have done all of the world traveling she has done and to have received all of the accolades and achievements in academia that she has is truly impressive. She is one of the most applied and driven women I know. It takes takes something bigger than balls. Drive. My sister is in gear most of the time. But on the opposite side of the world from her Drive lies Neutral. You want to keep it in drive if you ever want to make it where you intend to go, but you also need to savor the stops; it's okay to sit still and take some time to get your bearings before you drive on. We taught each other a beautiful lesson. The Unwind is essential for The Gear Up. 

I reminded my sister that she can be gentle with herself and cherish neutral stops, and she reminded me that I can be driven, and courageous. My sister gave me a gift, a small mirror...made in Korea, of course. Isn't that a beautiful metaphor? Just when I needed it, my sister showed me another one of my faces, one from the other side of my world. I am in a stage of great neutral motion, I feel I am going farther inward than ahead, but I am also driven. In my own way, I am also a feminist. 

It was incredibly hard this time to let her go; another year will go by before we will see her again. It was a tearful farewell, we didn't want to let go or say goodbye. The truth is, my sister and I have codependent parts that tend to each other. I'm the 12 year old that cares for her and lets her be her zany self, slopping up my house as much as necessary to get to that state of comfort and care; she is the 6 year old joker, hiding under my bed, luring me out of my depression with her nonsense and goofing, reminding me of my responsibility and influence. These parts grew to be this way out of necessity, and these parts still miss each other desperately. However dysfunctional or trapped in the past these pieces are, they are a part of us. The truth is, though, that so are the feminist parts, the driven parts, the achievers in us. We are mighty achievers, we just need some recovery time. Your manager parts can do bad ass things if you don't forget to occasionally spend some time with the exiles. 

A sister is a mirror, and in her resides a reflection of our exiled inner child. Our parts find comfort in their self-nurturing rituals together. We also see our True Selves and our full potentials in the other's eyes through the malaise. I am grateful for the mirrors I have been given. I look to them when I have forgotten who I really am. Thank you for the mirror, Sister. Drive on.