Summer’s Gift

So fellow travelers, it took a Fire Dragon who appeared in the sky after a powerful thunderstorm,

daring me to chase the sunset, to shake off the sadness of this passing of an extraordinary summer of adventures. As I ran through wet grass and puddles in the street words tumbled out in to this haiku~

Summer adventures

Joy ignited heart and soul

Forever ablaze

Time to welcome a new season of discovery.

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

Maybe Tomorrow

So fellow travelers, after packing in as much adventure as possible in these last few weeks of summer break I thought it was about time I got back to writing. Hunkered down with both the aircon and a fan going to ward off the heat advisory level humidity outside, there are no spectacular views to distract me here in my writing space.

Sorry- what was I saying?

Oh right- off the trails and back to writing. It is after all approaching the 36 hour mark to BTS (BackToSchool for all those without schools aged kids or teacher types in their midst) and I will soon be immersed in the routines of schedules and modified lesson plans.

So I got busy scribing some thoughts for a good quarter hour picking up where I had left off in Joshua Tree National Park , when a message popped up on my laptop screen informing me the “system has encountered a problem and needs to restart” and BEFORE I could click Save , my screen went black.

and when everything rebooted and I opened the WordPress tab ….. that post had evaporated into the ethers.

Not

One

Word

Left

Ah well, it wasn’t coming together so well anyways.

Tomorrow we try again, because everyday is a chance to begin again.

So, as Christopher Robin once said in a note to Pooh

Backson

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

Becoming Stardust

So fellow travelers, next stop on this summer’s big trip : Joshua Tree National Park

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by day it is a fantastical place of mysterious rock formations

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and Seuss-like vistas

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but it was the discovery of  a little observatory   located just down the road from the JTNP Oasis Visitor Center which provided the experience of a lifetime when I drove there after dark to see the stars

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and after weeks of wrestling with futile attempts at capturing the moment I’ve concluded there are experiences so vast and expansive, words fail to contain them.  I have no choice but to surrender just as I did that moment I stepped out of my car, into complete darkness and looked up at a night sky so full of Light and Mystery everything I thought I knew exploded into a new universe which asked nothing but a total willingness to surrender to joy and wonder beyond mortal comprehension.

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This sunset taken at the observatory is the only image I have of that night beyond the one now embedded in my memories.

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

 

 

 

The Mom on the Southbound Train

So fellow travelers, reflecting on the many memorable moments which graced my week with this new found community, I could write posts for days to come.

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Who could ask for S’more than roasting marshmallows after the beach dinner concert?

There is the story of  the dog who came  to the movies, the fan who would have surfed from China, the girl with the grammy, the follower who took a leap of faith, the team who would not be beaten and then there is the  Mom on the Southbound train~

 

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This last title references a unique friendship which blossomed during my time in Oceanside. While waiting for my photo op with the band, I started talking to some of the people in the lobby and discovered one of them was staying at the same hotel.

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This moment of serendipity set in motion several chances to travel to and from various activties together throughout the week. Since I had a rental car and we were staying at the same hotel it just made sense to me to have Linda ride along to any of the events we would both be at.  She was a really good sport about my not-so-good driving; the rental car, which I nicknamed the Velociraptor* for the jolting surprise of it’s aggressively responsive brakes, had the distinction of the worst visibility of any car I have ever driven.  Those are two combinations not condusive to smooth cruising along narrow, winding Highway 101. Perhaps the scenic views made up for the carnival ride effect of me vs Velociraptor.

Linda and I got along so well, by the end of the week we had a routine down. We met in the hotel breakfast room (where the staff and many guests were captivated by the World Cup Soccer Games~ “Ve ve Mexico!”) and made plans on when to meet up for that day’s band activity and whatever else we might want to do together or on our own.  During our adventures I found out this trip was filled with many firsts for my new friend Linda, including her first plane trip but not her first Switchfoot show.  Linda had taken her kids to many concerts and this getaway week was a thank you gift from her son and daughter for all she had done for them as a hard working single mom when they were growing up.

Often we would look at each other and ask ourselves- “Wow, is this all really happening?” because we both found the whole experience truly uplifting and more than a little mind blowing. Neither of us knew what to expect from the getaway weekend events and we certainly never expected to connect so easily and personally with not only with the guys in the band and their phenomenal support staff but also with so many different people. From the young woman who traveled all the way from China, the fun loving parents of little sweet Millie Grace the chihuahua (who now has many fans of her own) to the bright young independent film maker pursuing dreams of her own, every day Linda and I would share stories after each activity of the people we met and the connections we made. Always we would come back to the miracle moment of our own meeting.

It was,I think, as Mom’s that Linda and I initially related to each other. Our kids are in the same age range, all in their twenties and as siblings go, very different from each other. Our desire to be supportive, while allowing them to be true to their selves and also shared emotions of how hard and sometimes scary it is to let go. I deeply admire her strength and dedication; raising two kids on your own is a great challenge in our society which lacks consistent committment to assist single parents.  Here too, in sharing our life challenges, we resonated deeply on the inspiration we drew from Switchfoot’s music through the years.

The morning we were both heading our separate ways- she back home and I on my next adventure in Joshua Tree National Park, I offered to drive her to the station so she could catch the train to San Diego.  I told Linda I had no specific timeframe for heading out of town and was more than happy to be able to help her with one last ride. In fact, I wanted to see her off safely on her way, as I would have for any good friend, because after all we were now solidly quite good friends.

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After her train left, I drove into town to have breakfast at a diner Linda recommended.  The song which came up on the Spotify playlist I had created for the Bro-AM weekend was Jon Foreman’s SouthBound Train.  I had to pull over and let the tears of pure gratitude flow because I knew of the many blessings I had been granted during this week, the gift of a new friend was the unexpected treasure, a form of grace I never expected to receive.

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

Postscript: Jon’s peformance of Southbound Train during his phenomenal 25in24 event is one of my favorite versions. Do take a few minutes to fill your soul and watch.

*The rental was actually a Hyundai Veloster. Suffice to say it’s unlikely I will ever own or voluntarily drive one again.

 

 

 

The Fan with the Switchfoot Sneakers

We play music because we love it, but we also play music because we want to see things change… within ourselves and in the world around us. These are songs of hope and new beginnings, and we’re always trying to get better at living that out.” Tim Foreman Stories Behind the Songs: Vessel Bags Interview April 14, 2016

So fellow travelers, those moments when a new acquaintance says or does something and you both feel the “click” of Inner Spirits connecting and you know you have found another member of your tribe.

Linda V. fellow Friend of the Foot taking in the ocean view

I have written about them before and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be writing about them again. Of all the bright, fun filled experiences in Oceanside, it was the always the moments of personal connection which brought the most joy.

Not long ago, when reflecting on the changes retirement and relocation will bring, I realized how much farther I would be traveling to get to family events or periodic gatherings with my creative tribemates and how much I would miss my phenomenal support team of friends at work

37630Toasting the last day of the year (the mugs say it all)

At every event during the Switchfoot Getaway I found connections and made new friends. Whether we were surfing, sharing meals or participating in a service project, over and over again the theme of community emerged. We extended beyond fellow fans and grew into a family.

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All photos courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway2018*

At the registration photo op** with the band, when they commented on my “cool” sneakers and I mentioned I wore them because I thought they looked like “Switchfoot sneakers” to me, it was a remarkable moment to connect and tell each of them how significant their music has been while I walk this path of seeking Light.

And the week was only just getting started~

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

*Photos from various events are provided by the Switchfoot Getaway 2018 team and used with permission.

** When I first saw my band photo, I was surprised I don’t seem to be smiling.  On closer inspection I saw it actually captures the look I get when I hold my breath as I feel a wave of absolute joy washing over me. It happened several times a day on this trip.

Bookends

So fellow travelers, today marks the start of a new solar year in this grand adventure of life. Reflecting on the bookends of the first and last days

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Team Fairbanks-Rahalski at the summit of Pinnacle Peak Trail in Rainier National Park

I can see the origami of insights and growth created by the challenges weathered in-between two foundations: friends and family. As I embark fullspeed into the coming years of this sixth decade of solar returns I have my sights set on the adventures made possible by that foundation.

The road we travel

is made lighter by the Love

carried in our hearts

To all the beautiful points of Light in my community of family and friends here is a heartfelt haiku of gratitude for the love and support which has and will continue to bless my journey. You are the best gift anyone could ever receive.

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

Listen

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout. Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks*!” King Lear Act 3 Scene 2 

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So fellow travelers, like many of my creative tribemates I write to process my experiences.  Yet, sometimes our experiences overwhelm our capacity to express what we feel.  Raging storms of emotions inundate the landmarks which guide us on our journey; chaos threatens to consume the weathervane* compass points we rely on to help us find our way.  If we cannot find ways to express what we feel, we will drown in our emotions or, worse yet, become so numb we move through life like the walking dead.

In those times, music and art can become the life lines which guide us back. This is the backstory of how I found the music which kept me afloat when swells of chaos and confusion threatened to engulf me and pull me under.

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When Favorite Oldest Daughter was a teenager, she used to make me playlists of music. This being back in the times before kids were perpetually hooked into their earbuds I could actually hear what she was listening to when she worked on the desktop computer in the family room. When there was a song she listened to often I would ask her to put it on one of the CDs she made for me. This is how I first heard the song 24 written by Jon Foreman**.

To this day the song moves me to tears; they maybe tears of loss, regret, confusion, relief, or happiness, yet most often they are tears of deep abiding gratitude.

When I listen to Jon’s music, whether it is from one of Switchfoot’s ten albums or a solo project like Wonderlands which created the 25in24 project no matter what state I am in, the emotion which inevitably rises to the surface is gratitude. Gratitude for glimmers of hope in times of doubt, for grace in times of failing, for healing in times of suffering even for humor to wake me from the hell of taking everything including myself far too seriously.

For over a decade now this music has been a Presence on my journey. At first a background harmony, then after my first Switchfoot concert experience (NYState Fair Chevy Court, August 23, 2009) a balance point during unsettled times and finally, in the past four years, a life raft carrying me through the tsunami of changes happening in and around me.

Since my first live experience in 2009 I have felt these musicans are more than a band and I have gone to as many shows as possible which came within a days driving distance. I have done meet and greet sessions with the band and Jon (who does tours of his solo projects) not because I am star struck but to have an opportunity to thank them for the gift of their songs, for being the ones who put words and rhythm and harmonies to the emotions I felt so deeply yet did not understand or could not find ways to express.

But there was one live experience I knew of, which I had not found a way to get to,

yet

so, when the chaos at work began to escalate and I needed set a Light to reach for I put a plan in place find my way to Bro-Am 2018

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(to be continued)

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

**listen to 24 by Jon Foreman on Switchfoot’s 4th album The Beautiful Letdown here

Make a Joyful Noise

So fellow travelers, navigating major highways in heavy rain requires a kind of intense focus which you don’t realize is exhausting until you arrive at your destination.

It’s an apt metaphor for the level of focus and energy my job has required for several weeks now. Often at the end of the day I arrive home so thoroughly spent, a nap is required to take Delilah out for our afternoon walk. Bless her sweet soul, she has learned to be patient, curling up on the couch with me. She even developed the habit of gently nudging me awake after about half an hour which is about the longest I allow myself to rest so I won’t be up too late that night. When I wake, no matter how tired I still feel, we leash up and head out, whether on a brief patrol of the neighboring streets or a longer hike of a nearby trail to scout for birds (me) and woodland critters (Delilah) these walks help me hit the reset button. A sudden scattering of light through newly leafed trees, the bright call of a warbler, a sight of an osprey gliding high overhead on a lakeside trail, auditory and visual moments of joy and wonder. They serve as reminders that the failings of the educational system are not the be all and end all of my purpose.

As I drove through the rain I let a whirlwind of thoughts rattle around in my brain like raw stones in a tumbler, hoping some gems of wisdom or at least chips of sparkling insight might emerge.

They didn’t.

The drive took a bit longer than anticipated; I had just enough time to check in at my Air B&B, change for the concert and head to the venue where I found two of my friends had graciously saved me a seat. My mind was still a swirl of contradictory lines of thought so it was just as well we did not have much time to chat before the first somber measures of Verdi’s masterpiece drifted over us.

Choral music is rarely my first choice for musical repose, even when I am inclined to listen to classical music, which I do fairly often. Yet I have thoroughly enjoyed every concert I have had the good fortune to hear our friends perform in. This performance was a rare opportunity to see all three friends singing together. One sporano, one tenor and one alto tucked among over two hundred members of four diverse community choral groups, accompanied by talented student and long term musicians of the Putney Orchestra under the superb direction of Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson.  (rehearsal photo courtesy of The Keene Chorale.)

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Seated just a few rows back on the ground level of Bennington College Greenwall Auditorium, we had a close-up view of all four star soloists. Cailin’s emotive movements did not “conduct” so much a conjure a vortex seeming to suspend the reality of space and time. Transfixed, we who listened were drawn into the swells of despair and hope as the music poured into every fiber of our presence. We felt the wrenching sorrow of Verdi’s grief, terror of final judgement and healing angelic blessing of grace as the words and music wound through the text of the Catholic Funeral Mass on which he based this tribute to his friend, Alessandro Manzoni, a much loved and publically revered writer of the time.

How significant to realize friendships had brought me to this moment even as friendship had driven a creative force so powerful and moving it was impossible to experience without feeling the Divine Presence behind Creation itself. I know I felt Grace and Healing completely enfold not only my own weary spirit but the entire performing space and every soul within it. Music affects me deeply, but rarely as profoundly as this performance. One week later I sense I am still absorbing the impact. My dreams have been intense and vivid, my sleep deeper and more restful than it has been in months and the fallout from continued chaos at work has rolled off my consciousness like wax dripping down the side of candles on an altar.

To remain under the grace of this experience for whatever time I am granted I remain profundly grateful for Verdi’s gift born from profund loss. I wish him Lux Eterna.

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

Seismic Shifts

So fellow travelers, five weeks to go in the final stretch of this school year.

Like marathon runners “hitting the wall” going into the last quarter of the run, our team is digging deep to find the energy and willpower to see this through. Resources depleted, we keep each other refueled and focused as best we can. Requests for additional support and questions we ask go unanswered but recent events may force some issues to a critical point. Time will tell and until it does, we forge on.

Cold wet weather was keeping me and my trusted four legged companion Delilah off the trails and slowed the return of spring migrants to a trickle. No hiking, sparse birding, minimal walks had me plodding along in a fog until a sudden tragedy jolted me back to awareness.

We received news a close friend suffered a tragic, unexpected loss leaving her family reeling in shock. Tragic news has a way of setting seismic shifts in motion. When a friend is in need, all concerns about other matters are dispersed by the call to be of assistance; it does not matter whether this assistance takes the form of action or the gift is simply being present to listen. To be silent and strong when someone feels their world shatter around them, to be the one who can take action when others are immobilized by shock, anger or grief is what it means to “be there” for someone reeling in disbelief at the chaos life has sudden thrown at them.

To be present for others requires us to shift our focus outside ourselves even as we reach within for strength and compassion.

As the priest spoke of departed souls being near in times of loss, three large turkey vultures swooped over the trees. The black messengers circled the graveside gathering of family and friends several times gracefully spiraling higher and higher into the air carrying with them the prayers of the grieving and heart broken.

I no longer pass off such moments as mere coincidence and in the instant of accepting the sign, comfort took form in these words.

Dark raptors soar high

Ancestral spirit blessing

One soul welcomed home

There can be lessons in times of loss. Healing and grace, forgiveness and awakenings, gifts embedded within grief.

Walk gently on the path my friends and  if you too are grieving a loss, may peace settle on your hearts.

Perspective

So fellow travelers, on the road this weekend again and I’m struck by the picturesque contrast of bright spring greens against stark hillsides.

Persistent rain and swaths of fog veiled the views in light too flat for decent photos but I did catch one image at a rest stop on the way to Philly for the weekend’s family brunch to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Cold wet yuck to some

Life giving rain to others

Perspective matters

I’m grateful to be spening the weeken with my Mom, even as I count the days until I can visit with my own daughters whom I miss so much when we gather as a family here. Yet some close to me are struggling with the heartache of loss as Mother’s Day arrives. Whether recent or over years a loss suffered in motherhood or from mothers now gone becomes more acute at times when so many are celebrating. If tears, like rain must come, my wish they bring healing to those whose hearts ache an this healing blesses the life still waiting to be lived.

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