Of Squirrels and Hope

So fellow travelers, a key turning point in my adult life came when a meditation teacher gave me permission to stop “shoulding” on myself.  Or as Master Yoda might put it “do or do not, that is all.”

The fact is, current reality* leaves me little time and even less energy for writing. The amount of screen time I am obligated to engage in to meet my assigned responsibilities for on-line education leaves me with little to no motivation for spending  additional time on line. The bright side of that is many long neglected sections of my garden are looking quite hopeful for the growing season ( whenever Spring decides to show up for good.)

Still, writing a blog does come with a sense of responsibility and, while I have no financial or commercial pressure to maintain any set number of followers, likes or comments, I often feel a “should be posting” if for no reason than simple gratitude to you, my readers.

So, while I sort out the responsibilities of the last few weeks of on-line school, I am glad my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Bowman gave me permission to share her recent piece. As she so often does, Jen has found words which give cogent elucidation to so much of what I have been feeling these past 60 plus days.

Enjoy:
https://jenniferkbowman.wordpress.com/2020/05/04/anti-depressant-squirrels-of-the-2020-pandemic/

Editorial note: My reference above to the “*new reality ” stems from my refusing to empower the current global situation with the title “new norm;” there is nothing normal about any of it. But that is the substance of another post. ‘Til then

Walk gently on the path my friends. Be kind to yourselves and others

I Lack Discipline? You Lack Compassion — My Zen Brain

Editorial note: Guest Post from a fellow writer and friend who nailed it on the head. Thanks Andy!

A friend of mine sent me a link to a Facebook post that everyone should read. I’ve provided a screenshot of it here so you can read her words of wisdom. Now, I get it. The motivation behind this phrase is painfully obvious: “If you don’t come out of this with a new skill, you […]

I Lack Discipline? You Lack Compassion — My Zen Brain

Now What ?

So fellow travelers, while I have considered this space as a kind of creative “thinking out loud,” there has always been an underlying hope that my writing has served some purpose beyond my own musings.

If an uplifting haiku, an eye catching photo or a bit of humor brings joy or even insight to some of my readers, I feel I have done my part in making a difference by helping others along on their journey. 
Adjusting to the massive changes brought about by the COVID19 pandemic has proven to be more demanding than any of us thought it would be. For me just the switch to online education created an overload of new information to master. There has been little time for myself to relax, let alone write; I had even stopped journaling.

Thankfully, two practices I have maintained are daily meditations and evening gratitudes. That and frequent walks with our dog have kept me sane in a very crazy time, a time which, in the words of therapist Barbara Young, “…is a much longer marathon than we could ever have imagined (becoming) a reality.”  I found her words in an article my friend and fellow writer Kate Rantilla shared. As I read it, I realized why I have felt so pressured: I am, as she describes, trying way too hard to “do isolation well.”

Her insights have helped me make sense of my emotions and allowed me to reorganize my intentions with less self-judgment. So, although I rarely share outside sources here, it felt like the best way, at the moment for me to make a bit of difference for you, my fellow travelers. 

Barbara Young’s article “What do we do now? can be found here: “https://tinyurl.com/sx2ke7n

Walk gently on the path my friends another time-
for now save lives, stay home and be well.

Insights for a New Decade

So fellow travelers, this has been a busier than usual holiday season for which I am grateful to have had a full two weeks off from work.

In between road trips to visit family, I have managed to rearrange several rooms in our house. My efforts have allowed me to resurrect my pilates machine, reclaim art studio space with good daylight and establish a new meditation and yoga space.

I’ve been honoring this last gift by spending time every morning reflecting on the passing year and clearing out any burdens I choose not to carry forward as I set intentions for the new year.
(This photo is the spot in my parents townhouse where my Mom meditates and says her ancestral prayers each day.)

Entering this shiny new decade free from past hurts, resentments, guilt or regrets is a gift we can only give to ourselves. I have been trying to write about this (in between packing up Christmas, moving furniture and clearing out clutter) but it came out sounding too diadactic.

Then friend and fellow blogger Lisa Dingle put up a blog post which embodied what I was trying to say- only absolutely on point with her signature Light touch and good humor. You can find her post here https://justponderin.com/2020/01/03/on-my-cup-and-the-new-year/

Synchronicity struck as I read Lisa’s post right after writing my own intentions for this new decade on the first blank pages of my 2020 journal. Intentions which revolve around making choices which will fill my own cup with less judgement and more tolerance and compassion, as much for myself as for others because we cannot give what we do not hold for ourselves. So I raise a cup in a toast of united commitment to “doing the work.” Here’s to the spillage bringing more hope and joy into our weary world.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Poem: Speakeasy

So fellow travelers, clarity is a gift beyond measure in writing .

One of the many benefits of being part of a creative tribe is what we call the “ripple effect” of sharing inspiration from each other’s work. At times the dynamic exchange of encouragement and energy will bring insights which shift my perception of something I am working just enough to reveal how something I was struggling to express. This morning a post from my friend Tom Atkins did exactly that for me by defining something I experience when I am at a show with my favorite band.

The context is slightly different but the reference of being in a safe space where we can “spill ourselves is precisely why I go to as many concerts and events as possible. Each time it is an unburdening of doubt, healing of sorrows and an infusion of hope made possible by faith in the ultimate power of Unconditional Love.

The original post is shared here

Quarry House

Speakeasy #1.JPGSpeakeasy

A single red light at the end of a brightly lit alleyway,
your secret place,
a place of release,
more about the safety than the alcohol,
where everything spills out.

About this poem

We all need that safe place to be, to talk, to spill ourselves out.

The painting, one of mine, is also called “Speakeasy” and inspired the poem.

Tom

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Stopping Time

So fellow travelers, fellow creative tribemate Deb German Young posted a photo from her recent travels to see Falling Water, the iconic Frank Llyod Wright house in Pennsylvania.

The image not only caught my attention, it literally stopped me mid-scroll and I gasped out loud. “What is it?” my husband inquired as we wound through traffic in downtown Portland. “Something amazing one of my friends posted on the creative page,” I said once the neurons in my brain unlocked. “Oh, ok” he responded in the matter of fact manner indicating he is fully acclimated to the “wow” moments which often occur when I check in with the creative page.

“It is as if you stopped time” I commented under Deb’s photo, tears welling in my eyes as I posted. This image, so delicate and powerful all at once, went straight through my heart, deep into my soul, calling up that thought.

Isn’t this part of why we take photos? Are they not attempts to capture a moment so when time takes its toll we can re-ignite the fading memory into the brillance of the present? At least for me this is true. I rely on the photos I have in my camera roll to help me write because my emotions are embedded in the images I capture. When I sit down to write, I need the images to bring me back to the moment so the words are more genuine.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to take fewer shots, and be more present in the experience. Over the years, as my aptitude for writing has developed, a modest confidence in my ability has allowed me step back from creative misgivings. Being intentional of when and why I take photos is becoming more habitual. Mindfulness makes everything, including creativity, flow with less resistance.

The tears in my eyes at that moment came from the emotions I am experiencing on this year’s visit. The sense of belonging has grown exponentially since last year. I just wrote about the weather factor, but as I have been crafting a post about my Switchfoot week in San Diego I am aware there is a bigger shift happening. The words to express it have not yet become coherent, but the moments I captured and stored in my camera roll are helping me get there.

Stay tuned.

Rainbow over Encinitas

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

… on a letter to the first owner of my second-hand dog

So fellow travelers, a guest post here from a fellow blogger and now rescue dog adopter whom I am blessed to also count as friend. Grab some tissues and be ready for your hearts to smile.

Dear Sir, Firstly, I’m so sorry for the anonymous nature of this salutation. It’s just that I don’t know your name. My name is Lisa Dingle, and I adopted your Bella nearly a month…

Source: … on a letter to the first owner of my second-hand dog

Birds Doing New Things

While I head out to clear snow (yes it’s still snowing on and off in March- ah Spring in Upstate NY) from my own backyard birdfeeders to keep the early spring migrants well fueled against the return of Winter-like temperatures I thought my Fellow Travelers might enjoy a trip to a bird sanctuary in warmer climates. Sylvia’s blog keeps my birding dreams alive through our long cold season.

Tonji and Sylvia's Wildlife Refuge

Sometimes we see birds as predictable creatures of habit. They have favorite perches that they return to day after day. Their behavior becomes familiar and part of the flow of the day.

This has become a familiar early morning sight. 5 White Breasted Woodswallows perched on top of this Agoho tree.

Other times we get to witness entirely new behavior. I thought it was unusual to see a Philippine Bulbul perched on the round pen. They usually hide inside the trees. What was it doing?

This looks to me like a young Philippine Bulbul. Based on the sounds, I think there was a nest inside the aratiles and this bird is one of the young from the nest.

The Philippine Bulbul was carefully, drop by drop, picking up dew from the fence posts.

I’ve never seen other birds do that on the fence posts before.

Soon there was a second…

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A Different Choice

So fellow travelers, a series of winter weather fronts has laid down layers of thick ice concealed beneath pristine, powder soft coatings of fresh snow.

Walking even a few steps has become a treacherous undertaking; I fell hard in my driveway getting out of the car a few days ago. Fortunately the fall resulted in nothing more than a bruised knee, sore wrist and a stiff back which was easily tweaked into place by our most excellent chiropractor. So now I use my Kahtoola NANOspikes even to walk the short path to refill my back yard bird feeders.  

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Frequent visitors to the backyard feeders

My recent newsletter from the Cornell Ornithology Lab informed me that chickadees can lose up to 10-15% of their body weight overnight trying to stay warm. Since their bright chirruping keeps my spirits up through our long cold winter season, I feel it’s the least I can do to keep these winter residents supplied with the fuel they need. The marauding squirrels are welcome too, as they provide our dog’s primary entertainment on days when it’s too blustery to walk.

2016curious

Now where did that squirrel go?

There have been too many of those this winter, at least that is how it feels but then I usually feel as if winter has dragged on long enough by the time Mid-February brings us the gift of a week off from school. “Winter Break”  is when I begin to wish Winter would give us a break. It rarely does. A quick search my blog history reveals post after post of February Blues entries.

Winter Break week does offer the blessing of getting to sleep in a bit, which has resulted in some truly bizarre pre-waking REM states.  This morning’s “ visions of surviving after a meteor strike” epic brought up this Haiku

Deep in winter sleep

Phantom demons rise and fall

Awake in the Dream

Lucid dreaming has not happened for me in quite awhile and this episode brought out some deep fears which I have been contemplating after morning meditation.The dream kept producing moments where I had to make split second decisions in the midst of absolute chaos. When I woke up I was struck by the parallel feelings I gathered from a recent blog post by my friend and accomplished writer, Jennifer Bowman in which she called for more tolerance of our darker emotions, particularly depression. The idea of allowing space for those times when depression is a natural result of the stuff life throws at us.

Jennifer also pushed back a bit at the concept that we can choose how we feel and called out the social media trend of memes which invoke “Choose Joy” as an admonishment, particularly of women, to take responsibility for their emotional states. Someone faced with the struggles of coping with a potentially fatal diagnosis,  the sudden loss of a loved one, a major career change or dramatic financial shift, these are not likely helped by such admonitions. Another friend, Tom Atkins, who writes often about the daily challenges of clinical depression speaks honestly of the void of positive thinking this state creates.

Perhaps it is less about choosing the emotion and more about choosing how we think about that emotion- a point made by both my friends. Whatever the feeling is, depression, rage, sorrow, bliss, wonder, it is not good or bad- it is at that given point in time quite simply what we are feeling. To layer judgement on top of the feeling obscures the potential within that emotion- if it is “good” we may begin to fear any change which might bring it to an end, if it is “bad” we may try to gloss over it or bury it deeper to avoid facing it.

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So then, instead of the pressure to choose “joy” or any other feeling we judge as “better,” what if we allow ourselves to “choose comfort,” to find what would ease our struggle enough to sit with the sadness, pain, anger or depression long enough to hear what it is trying to tell us. In truth, no matter what they are, our emotions are always telling us something about what it is we need. If we choose to listen, we have a chance to meet those needs and that chance can give us just enough hope to take the next step forward.

Walk gently on the path my frends and may adventure find you ready.

Successful Simplicity

Insight and something worth considering from a good friend , fellow writer and in many ways a mentor who makes a difference.

The Wisdom Letters

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This morning on my poetry blog, I posted the poem below:

Every. Thing.

Simple curved wood.
A few tacks.
Stain.
Shellac.

A place at the table
void of clutter.
A pair of pencils.

Enough.
No more.

In the next room a clock.
The pendulum swings silently.
Time is told.
No more.

Every.
thing.
tells you about
yourself,
about what is enough,
and if you poke at it,
why.

Simplicity and Minimalism are all the rage these days, but…

We are told how many books we should have, how to fold, what to cut out. The Ipod, that now nearly extinct music player that once dominated our life reduced a wall of audio equipment into a tiny little thing that fit in our pocket, with one of the great user interfaces of all time. In business circles, we are told to simplify, simplify, simplify, all while the world demands…

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