Zen Moment : Secret Smile

So fellow travelers, it’s that time of year when darkness begins to encroach on both ends of my day.

Now sunrise kisses the sky just as I am headed in to work. A few days ago, I caught sight of the last faint sliver of the waning 4th quarter moon. Just a wisp of light, a smile fading quickly in the glare of daylight, a symbol of hidden joy. Hidden perhaps by the harsh glare of day’s demanding realities but known now to me, a secret tucked into my awareness to reach for when my own smile fades.

Night gives way to day

Crescent moon’s ghost of a smile

Joy’s hidden secret


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

Postscript: The moment also reminded me of another smile I found on my #Spiritof60 Road Trip. You can read about that in the post at this link .

Me too

So fellow travelers, this is a post I never thought I would find it’s voice, let alone speak openly in the stark light of day.

The “me, too” movement trending on social media seeks to shed light on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assault. People who have experienced it put “Me too,” as their status. Some share stories, others simply post the words. It’s growing exponentially, gaining momentum making it clear sexual intimidation, harassment and assault are so widespread it’s profoundly distressing.

And like the thousands of women and a cadre of men who have found the courage to speak up, I took a deep breath and posted “Me too,” as well.  One sleepless night of wrestling with a memory buried deep in the past convinced me I no longer wanted it festering in my psyche.  As soon as I hit “share” a geyser of emotions tossed me against the wall of reality. When I figuratively came to, I sensed a stream of words trying to be heard.  I wrote them down, sharing them here essentially as they came~

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Like sleepless hours of too many nights the memory comes again jolting to consciousness awakened by the storm of anguished cries  an unwelcome stab from scars ripped open trust betrayed blame mislaid shamed into acceptance of unspeakable submission now revealed and writhing pitifully in daylight spoken so let the fire of truth cauterize the wounds bleeding no more fists unclenched freeing hands to hold each other hearts beat loud a unified call to wholeness.

I’ve felt disconnected from myself all day, as if suffering from an emotional concussion. Gradually after taking down the stream of consciousness “poem, I found my way back to center. Writing helps me make sense of things I find otherwise incomprehensible. Given my experience did not involve violence, I am staggered by the resiliency of assault survivors. I have no answers for the plague of reprehensible behavior the “Me too” campaign has revealed.  There is only a desperate prediction this awareness must render the behavior completely beyond any level of social acceptance.

And, if nothing else, if you are one who also can say “Me too,” know this

We too stand with you.

Walk gently on the path my friends and know you do not make this journey alone.

Sinking In

So fellow travelers, one of the things I value highly from being part of a creative community are the moments when one person’s contribution generates another work.  We call it the ripple effect.  Jackie Campbell,  a friend and fellow haiku writer (she posts one almost daily in her thoughtful blog) shared a story with a photo that caught my attention right away.

JackiesDock

Photo courtesy of Jackie Campbell

The image matched a haiku I wrote a few months ago but had not posted  because I had yet to capture an image to match the words.

Tide rises waves come
Hold fast to the shore my friend
Light and love are near

Most of my haikus are created out of the experience embedded in an image I capture, so the visuals usually preceed the words.  This haiku came out of some challenges another friend was experiencing. When I composed it, I sent her a copy on a hand decorated card and kept the original words in my blog drafts waiting to snap the right photo to go with it. Then this morning while wrestling with another post that felt heavy and awkward, I came across Jackie’s candid story and photo. Often when I feel I’ve hit creative quicksand, I will take a break and scroll through my WordPress Reader’s feed or check in on Instagram if only to lift my mood. Most of the time savoring the creativity of others not only raises my spirits, it sparks my own process and I get back into the flow of writing, just as Jackie’s piece gave me the boost I needed today.

Jackie’s honesty about feeling daunted by the process of learning to “get out of manual” mode when using her camera reminded me of how easy it is to doubt our ability to acquire new skills, particularly when technology is a component of the tools we are using. I’ve had my digital slr camera for several years now and there are still settings I have not ventured to experiment with. In fact on my last trip to the Pacific Northwest I chose to leave that camera behind and rely on my phone for photos. With trips planned to two national parks, it was an almost unthinkable choice, one made only because I know I will return to those those parks again in the next few years.

On recent trips I have felt burdened by the bigger camera and noticed most of the photos I like best were ones I captured with my phone. This trip I felt more present in the adventures I had, letting the experience really sink in without the requirement (admittedly self imposed) of capturing it “on film.” There were only a handful of moments when I missed the capabilities of my dslr and the depth of experience I gained by being present without it were well worth the trade off of less impressive shots taken by phone.

20170826_120556.jpgMt Olympus from Hurricane Ridge in Olypmic Natl Park.                                                         One of the moments I missed my dslr and extra lenses.

The fear we have of not creating work that is “good” enough, not getting it “right” comes from self imposed expectations. We just don’t give ourselves the benefit of making mistakes which are after all how we learn to do things better. Our expectations and tendency to compare ourselves to others not only in creative endeavors, but in many, too many, areas of life, fabricate quagmires of doubt. This is why I am grateful for the creative community I am part of.  Encouragement, advice and even an inspirational challenge from time to time (more on that in an upcoming post) are lifelines along a sometimes rocky journey to creative growth and deeper self expression.  We may not always walk side by side, but we are never truly alone. It’s a blessing beyond any measure of perfection.

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

 

False Moon

So fellow travelers, unusually warm weather has created some strange images in the mornings. Today for example I was greeted by rose-violet air. No, it was not the sky, but the air itself which glowed. Dawn had infused the thick fog hovering just above the ground with the color of sunrise. I watched the air around me shift subtly from lavender to gold. The effect was mesmerizing.

Some mornings, the fields I pass on my way to work have revealed wispy cloud dragons sleeping between rows of apple trees and stacks of hay. A few days ago the fog was so thick I momentarily confused a neighbor’s driveway light for a celestial body. The sun? No. The moon? It made no sense,  hadn’t I just seen the waxing crescent moon the night before? Then I laughed as I unscrambled the nonsense my perplexed brain had generated. Quite a metaphor for some down right confounding exchanges I’ve encountered in the past few weeks. Judgements passed based on expectation instead of personal interactions, assumptions based on past experience instead of current circumstances, misunderstandings based on indirect communication, all hallmarks of the murkiness of humans trying to relate without being fully open to one another.

 

Naturally a bit of haiku emerged from the untidiness.

 

False moon morning fog

Doubt not friendships tried and true

Trust your heart not lies

 

Fuzzy cell phone shot of the would be moon

It is well to remember actions speak louder than words and before speaking we are best advised to listen.

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

Old Friends

So fellow travelers, once in a while I get text alerts from NASA letting me know the International Space Station will be visible as it passes over my location.

ISS in skyPhoto credit:  Society for Popular Astronomy

Ever since my first sighting a few years ago, I get a thrill from spotting this brilliant white speck as it zooms across the sky. Part of this is the challenge of navigating the directions to pinpoint the ISS location, part of it is sheer amazement at the accomplishment of sending and keeping something so substantial in orbit and a good measure of it is realizing as I look up there are fellow humans zooming along in that white beacon so far away.  How lucky they are gazing down at our home planet below as they do all sorts of fascinating scientific stuff. For a few minutes, I feel like I am part of the grand adventure.

This sense of wonder is so uplifting I have been known to rise hours earlier than my usual wake-up time for the chance to see the ISS. Of course, living near Syracuse, NY, which ranks in the top three on the list of cloudiest cities, there is never a guarantee of clear skies, so any sighting truly is a gift.

Earlier this week, luck graced my choice to rise early. A star studded crystal clear sky greeted me when I stepped out on to our deck. Steam rose from my coffee mug as I scanned the familiar icons.

The vshaped “head” of  Taurus, seven glittering sister stars of the Pleides cluster riding on his back, Sirius and Procyon the dog stars resting at the feet of their Master Orion. The atmosphere was so clear, I caught a rare (at least for me) sight of  Orion’s sword, a string of tiny stars dangling from the line of brighter more easily sighted stars in his belt.

These are constellations which reign the night skies in Winter. The reminder sent a chill through me but I smiled warmed by the thought that Orion connects me to some good people I once described* as  “old friends who’ve just met.”

I’ll be seeing some of those friends soon. True friendships unaltered by a futile battle of words intended to create division by doubt, forged like steel by trust which shines as constant as the stars.

Then zooming over the tree line to the west, the bright white dot of the ISS shot into view. I tracked it’s long graceful arc through the stars already beginning to fade in the predawn light.  It left me these words

orion

 

Orion rises

I’ll catch his stars with my heart

Friendship’s beacon calls

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  gatewaytotheuniverse.org

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

*Postscript:  “Old friends who’ve just met” are words from a post written just three years ago; that it feels more like three decades speaks to the level of upheaval wrought as a friends struggled to separate from toxic leadership within a creative collective. A significant number of the original members split off into a separate community. It has been nearly two years since the first fractures formed, yet periodically the shock waves of those events still reverberate through both communities, fueled largely by anyone still harboring anger and resentment. Fear and doubt can be powerful challenges to communal ties if left unaddressed. The admins of the newer community are reasonably adept at fostering an open dialogue to address issues when they come up. Not everyone can tolerate the intensity of emotional discussion; some friendships have disintegrated. I am grateful the ones that matter most to me have weathered the storms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voices in the Myst

So fellow travelers, now that the school year is in full swing my sweet summer morning ritual of sitting with a good cup of coffee and writing for an hour or so has been pushed back again.

I miss it.

 

(Photo : a bit of humor a friend sent me on social media. I might have to add this mug to my collection)

Writing not only helps me process life, it actually compells me to seek out experiences. Other times something happens and I’m thrown off balance.  I hit the trails, letting the my emotions swirl and boil at will in the relative safety of solitude. Then, when I am ready I sit at my laptop and let the words come.  Often those words need a sleep or two to become cohesive.

This summer more than ever I drank deeply of the spirit to follow the call in my heart. Relinquishing the freedom to rise and write was harder than ever this September.  My wake up call for work is too early to allow for time to write before leaving and so far I have been too exhausted at day’s end to put coherent thoughts together.  So, for now I accept I am back to weekend writing sessions and yet even as I do it’s only possible because I know I will have that freedom once again.

Creative exploration and expression are an essential element of my ability cope with the increasing challenges of my job. The beginning of this school year has brought some positive changes but also a growing awareness our administration’s expectations far exceed their ability to support the special education teams I am part of. (“Make it work,” for example, is not a productive response to staffing shortages.)  Coming into this year I made a committment to strengthen my own support system. I am determined to prevent a repeat of the detrimental impact stress had on my mental, emotional and physical being last year. In combination with other routines my creative time is part of my self preservation.

Why we have to fight so hard to stay on track with making positive choices is a puzzle. Getting caught up in negativity rarely feels good, yet we all find ourselves stuck from time to time. Self-awareness is a gift which calls us back from the pits of distress but we have to be listening to hear that call.

First light this morning revealed a thick mist settled eerily just above the ground. As the sun rose, it cast strange colors into the fog. I slept poorly last night, unsettled emotions from powerful conversations echoed through out the darkness. So I sat by my pond watching the “myst”erious interplay of light and fog.

A shot from another equally misty morning

Feelings shifted

Words came

and just like the rising sun dispersed the heavy fog,  clarity lightened my thoughts

Mystified

Suddenly lost in the fog

you stop

unable to see the path

standing still

breathing deeply to calm the fear

and over your breath you hear them

the voices in the mist

angry, monstrous sounds

you dare not proceed

yet you cannot go back

so you wait

and now you hear cries of pain

the need to help compels you to move

even as the fog thickens growing darker

so you hesitate

and stepping back a bit you see it

a ray of rose gold light

piercing the mist

watching as it grows stronger

dispersing darkness

as the path emerges from the fog

you realize those voices came not from out there

and the monsters you feared are yours

to leave behind or carry forward

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

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Spells

So fellow travelers, we have spent three days discovering the majestic power of the mountains in Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington.

Mount Rainier (above) and Mount Olympus (below)


They are spellbinding. 

 

Yesterday at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Favorite Older Daughter and I hiked a trail leading to a lookout point. It was a mercifully short, but knee cracking steep climb.  My daughter patiently paced her stride as I stopped to get photos and catch my breath more than a few times.

 

The views from the top were worth every inch we hiked.

Even more precious was this rare time alone together. “Proud” barely describes the depth of joy I feel being with the amazing young woman my daughter has become. I have not written much about her because it is not often we get to spend time together. I head back home in a few days with an increasing sense that “home” is no longer where I currently live. It’s become this wild and wondrous place I return to every summer, this place our kids call home.

While trying to describe my experience at the trail’s crest I wrote what I thought was a run on sentence, until I realized it was actually a poem

The mountains are calling and winding tendrils of awe around my  heart

Ice fresh air seductively imbued with cedar fills my head with wild dreams of following endless ridges laced with enticing ribbons of trails 

I would walk on and on diving below the tree line plunging deep into forests of forgetfulness and forgiveness  where nothing matters but the next step

A raven calls

I turn and face the sun

and walk step by step 

 back home

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


Afternoon Tea with Roses

So fellow travelers, this visit to Portland has a more relaxed pace. Taking time to simply enjoy being here as if this is where we already reside gives me a different perspective of this quirky city.

Portland is definitely exhibiting the aches and pains of a city which has grown far too quickly in the past decade. Some of the bruises are decidedly ugly.  Traffic gets steadily worse every year and Oregon’s absence of vagrancy laws creates an open door policy which requires a level of tolerance most large cities balk at. People become blind to the homeless because their presence is so pervasive it overwhelms any perception of being able to help. I have not been here long enough for the blindness to set in, what I see makes my heart ache. I am not sure I am willing to risk blindness to reside here.

During the week, the kids are up and off to work early.  I hang out with their beautiful rescue dogs, and edit photos from the previous days wanderings while enjoying a good cup of coffee, while my husband works (the great downside of the capacity to log in and work from any location.) When he’s done we head out to wander at will, returning later in the day to have dinner with the kids.

Today my husband drove out to see the custom auto shop where our son-in-law works. Ah those boys do love their cars and trucks. I met Favorite Youngest Daughter at the bagel cafe where she works and enjoyed a delicious sandwich, sitting on the deck surrounded by sunflowers while writing my post about the eclipse.

When my husband returned from shop talk, we headed to the International Rose Garden, a spot I had not yet fit into our daily explorations because I expected most roses would be well past bloom this late in August.  I was majestically proven wrong~

For some reason I was most drawn to the tiny buds yet to blossom, holding their secrets tight in the intense afternoon sunshine.

 

 

Late summer roses

Bright aromatic banquet 

Secrets yet to bloom

 

 

 

And the bees, zooming in and out of the fragrant flowers, pollen coating their wiggling bodies as they pushed deep to gather sweetness.

 

Busy visitors

gather sweetness spreading life

pure joy to watch

 

Portland is hot in August so we gladly accepted my younger daughter’s recommendation to visit a charming spot called the Tao of Tea.

We first experienced this type of tea service a few years ago at the Lan Su Chinese gardens in downtown Portland. Lan Su Garden is a beautiful treasure often overshadowed by the more famous Japanese Gardens.  The spot we went to today is a second location of the tea house located in the Chinese gardens offering the same menu minus the admission fee*.

Tao of Tea is well named, a sanctuary where rich wood walls buffer sound and seem to absorb the worries of this trying world as you sit sipping carefully prepared hand selected teas.  It was a most perfect haven to consider our younger daughter’s plans for the coming year.

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Cocoon of quiet

Pillow dumplings smokey tea

Heart connections thrive

Fluffy dumplings, exotic teas, the gentle trickle of a Buddha blessed fountain, all gifts I can wrap up in memory to take home until I can return.

 

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

*Editors note:  Given the opportunity to visit Lan Su Gardens, the unique and intricate landscapes are well worth the admission fee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Eclipse 2017

So fellow travelers, when I realized the 2017 total solar eclipse would pass through Oregon I began to make plans to schedule our annual visit to Portland around the August 21st event.

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 Lunar map by National Geographic©

After all, I am that kid who wanted a telescope and a wall map of the Moon not the new model of Barbie’s Dream House for Christmas .

So, we booked our flights, marked our calendars and ordered two packs of NASA certified Neil deGrasse Tyson approved eclipse viewing glasses shipped direct to our Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law’s home in Portland. Why risk forgetting to pack them?

A map from EarthSky.org, my go to source for comprehensible astronomy news and information, indicated Portland was just outside the path of totality. Additional research showed there was not a hotel, AirB&B or campground site available within the 100% zone during the weekend of and Monday evening after the eclipse. Everything had been booked over a year in advance. See? Some Americans do trust science.

If we were going to view the eclipse at totality we would have to find a site we could travel to and back that same day.  Some diligent searching turned up the Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon State Fair grounds in Salem. At just eight dollars a car  for parking this free, family friendly event sounded perfect. I signed up to receive “Eclipse Event Updates” via email and within a week memos from the Oregon DOT and OEM (Department of Transportation and Office of Emergency Management) began to show up in my inbox.

Our original plan was rise early, drive to Salem and arrive at the fairgrounds before the gates opened at 6am.  Under normal circumstances the trip would take just over an hour door to door, however according to the initial reports from ODOT traffic was expected to be heavy on the handful of roads leading to areas within the path of totality.  This would be a major issue for Madras, a tiny town dead center in the path where totality would last over two minutes.

We drove through Madras last year on our way to Bend, where we spent three days exploring the wonders of Smith Rock and the Painted Desert  .Thousands of people were expected to descend on this sleepy little place, with a handful of small businesses and one, maybe two gas stations.  News reports of restaurtants stocking up and scheduling staff around the clock popped up. Wow! and as ominous reports of potential highway gridlock and gas shortages arrived in my eclipse feed, I began to second guess our original plan.  Would we end up stuck on a highway, watching the eclipse from the road?

20170821_075258My detailed research indicated Portland was within the 99% range of totality.  The kids’ home happens to be within walking distance of the trailheads at Powell Butte Nature Park. So that became our backup plan.

Powell Butte trail map

 Once on the ground in Oregon, I began to follow various Twitter feeds to keep up to date on weather, traffic and wildfire reports. Summer is wildfire season in the PNW and unfortunately several fires had broken out in the totality zone. There were areas with mandatory evacutations and road closures.

Yet, as eclipse day approached many of the anticipated issues did not materialize. Aside from an early report of gas shortage, which officials realized resulted from thousands of cars going to Symbiosis a big festival near Prineville, it seemed so far people had heeded the directive to “Arrive early, stay put, leave late.”

It was tempting to consider making the trek to Salem. Powell Butte registered at 99.4% on an interactive eclipse tracking map. Would the potential headaches be worth the additional .6%?

In retrospect, I can answer yes ~ provided we wait out the departure traffic headed out of Salem. That 50 mile drive north to Portland took most people over four hours. Guess poeple were less inclined to follow through on the “leave late” instuctions.

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The experience on top of Powell Butte was still pretty cool. I hiked up a few hours early to stake out a spot with a wide unobstructed view. A small, diverse crowd gathered. Kids and dogs played while we waited. A couple on horseback rode up and waited in the shade of the treeline. Coffee, snacks and water were shared. Photographers with special filters on their tripod mounted cameras offered people a closeup glinpse of the action.

 

 

 

 

The view from our spot

For a few hours we were simply one community joined in mutual awe of Nature.

It cooled down. Eerie crescent shadows snaked along the ground, then suddenly the light dimmed to a strange violet color, not totally dark, but something unlike any light most had ever seen. Silence,  then cheers and applause. In the distance,  snow capped Mt. Hood shone brighter for just an instant then dimmed.

And all too quickly, sunlight returned. It is amazing how much light just a sliver of the sun can radiate onto Planet Earth from so far away.

Our experience in no way matched what I saw later in images from the totality zone, yet it left me with a humbled sense of our humanity and after some thought, these simple words ~

Filtered eyes look up

Moonshadow eats the sun while

Open hearts reach out

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Eclipse photo by Peter Rahalski

Now to start planning for 2024.

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

Market Magic

So fellow travelers, this Portland trip is focused on savoring my favorite elements of this quirky city.

Foraging in vintage shops which abound in treasures and Goodwill stores which offer bargains on items we forgot to pack, like a fleece jacket to stave off cooler coastal temps.

Gastronomic delights dreamed of for the past year, revisited and found true to the memories. Marionberry shakes,  kimchee quesadillas, beer infused mac and cheese to name a few.

Photo note:  Wet Dog Cafe, Astoria. The wait staff was amused I’d come all the way from New York to have that mac and cheese.

 

Getting lost in vast ocean views.

 

 

 

Sunset Beach after a hike (post pending)

 

Today I wandered around the Portland Farmers Market. 

Each Saturday the central green space of the PSU campus becomes a feast for the senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local produce, most of it organic,  food products like honey, jams, pickles, fresh pasta and breads. If, somehow, you are still hungry after the bounty of tasty samples, there is a tempting collection of food booths scattered throughout the market offering options from wagu beef tacos to veggie curries.

 

Lavender and honey ice cream was all I needed to feel content while enjoying the musical entertainment at the little stage under the trees.

Today’s featured performance was a smooth jazz trio whose take on classic crooner hits brought me back to childhood memories of radio infused Sunday drives.

Sinatra vs Bennet was an unending debate between my grandparents. ( With all due respect to Frank and my grandpa, I lean towards Tony, the young upstart my grandmother favored.)

 

But it was this colorful musical duo with their sweet terrier pup that I was glad to find.

I met them last year and heard the story behind their journey to the safe haven of PDX. In their eyes like so many others, this city became a harbor for stormtossed souls seeking acceptance.  The rhythms of their Hawaiian folk tunes carved a triptych word pattern.

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Shredded lives

 broken threads

 rewoven

 stronger now

 tapestry

 framed in hope

 

 

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