Faith Full

So fellow travelers, being aware it’s easy to pass off yesterday’s ardent post about my week with Switchfoot as the spellbound babble of a star struck fan I wanted to follow up

Photo courtesy of Switchfoot Getaway ©2019

because these exceptional musicians are such genuinely accessible humans they allow us to feel more like family than fans.

Drew Shirley gets some Millie Grace time with her parents.

Photo Courtesy Switchfoot Getaway 2019 ©

Take for example the day on the itinerary which I most look forward to which, it may surprise you to know, is not necessarily one of the musical performances the band graciously shares with us throughout the week

My front center view for the sunset concert cruise

nor is it the outstanding fun and excitement of the beach day where the guys hang out with us decorating souvenir magnets, building sand castles and surfing right alongside beginners as they navigate the waves~

Photos courtesy Switchfoot Getaway 2019 ©

or the tour when they invite us as small groups into the sacred space of their private recording studio and each member takes time to share their creative process, answer our questions and let us experience the joy of recording a little chorus, which they will mix into a song and then send us to download as a keepsake~

Photos courtesy Switchfoot Getaway 2019 ©

all these bring waves and waves of joy which will carry me through the challenges of the space

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

Familiarity Breeds Content

So fellow travelers, yes, the title is an intentional spin on the more common phrase. It stems from a conversation about the current weather here in Portland.

Grey skies over Powell’s City of Books, the PDX rainy day mecca

Our visits over the past five years have all been during hot, dry summers, although I believe we had one day of rain the very first year we visited. This year, it has been cool and cloudy with a few spurts of misty rain now and then. This is weather more typical of our side trips to the coastal areas.

Tillamook Bay July 2015

Grey skies are also typical weather for most of our year back in Upstate New York, so this weather creates an added sense of familiarity while I am here. Granted some of that comes from this being my sixth summer here, but in years past, the hot, dry weather has always added to the “vacation” atmosphere of my visits. For the past week I have been waking up to familiar grey skies and going about our days less like “Oh, here we are in PDX” and feeling more like I am some place truly familiar, some place I won’t be leaving to “go home” because I am content and already feel at home where I am now.

Coffee and Zeus, my afternoon nap buddies

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

Home

So fellow travelers, last night, at a small music club, Switchfoot gave a special performance for the fans who have gathered for their 2019 Getaway week leading up to the Bro-Am beach festival later this week.

It was a once in a lifetime concert experience.

Honestly, every concert I have seen them play since the first time I saw them live (Sept 4, 2009 at the NY State Fair) is a profound experience; that’s why I go to as many shows within my reach as possible ( nine so far and many more to come.)

This is music with a message of hope, words which speak honestly of the healing and joy possible if we reach out to one another and choose love in the midst of the struggle, the doubts, fears and losses life brings. Make no mistake, these are not quiet church hymns. Switchfoot is a faith based group but they are a rock band through and through. The driving rhythms of the drums and bass and the electrifying guitar riffs make it impossible to stand still. These songs transcend inspiration; at times they have quite literally saved my life and every show is a baptismal healing which renews my soul.

Last nights’s performance of a set list picked by us (that’s right, they had people attending submit requests before the show) featured many songs they have not played live in a while, one of which was a song written for the Disney movie Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Jon Foreman spoke of his love for C.S. Lewis’ writing which resonates with the longing for a true home beyond the bittersweet experience of this world. Every one of us feels that longing, whether we are fully conscious of it or not, this is what drives every choice we make. Jon’s music has that same thread running through it, a thread which has become deeply woven into the fabric of my own experience.

This is Home is the one song which always guides me back when I am so lost I don’t know how to find that Light and Love which I know calls me forward. Hearing it live for the first time last night was a blessing beyond words, an experience I am infinitely grateful has become a part of me.

And the week has just begun.

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

Mixed Messages

So fellow travelers, this has been quite the week of mixed messages.

A few decades ago, in my more pugnacious days I would have exerted tremendous effort in sorting the squabbles out. Presently, being in a transitional phase as work wanes towards retirement, I’m leaning towards an unusually benign state of letting the babble die down.

After all, when even the weather is befuddled, one might as well pour a cup of tea and wait for clarity to resurface.

Snow kissed blossoms fall

Fragile crystals glow then fade

April ends confused


Yes, those are tiny snow crystals with maple blossoms landing on my car .

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

Eggs-istential Hunt

So fellow travelers, it seems this morning’s little haiku has opened a gateway to a lot more words and an awareness of what was missing.

As more experiences in my daily life connect to my inner journey, it has become impossible to filter Spirit out of my writing. Close friends and fellow creatives tell me my writing has always been infused with spiritual perspectives yet I have often been hesitant to write about my direct relationship with Spirit, lest it be mistaken for religious sermonizing. Reflecting on my recent drought of creativity I’m aware this essential aspect of my experience has to be expressed if I am to write from my heart. Going forward I will tread carefully as if navigating a path through newly sprouted wildflowers. Light and Love are gentle, patient energies found in quiet spaces and I wish to be respectful of the beliefs others hold close.

~~~~~

I have a muddled relationship with religious observations.


Sacred altar in Luzerne Vally CA

Bear in mind I am that little girl in Sunday School who wanted to know why; for example, if Jesus had risen from death, why was he still dead on the cross in church. Fortunately Lutherans do not ex-communicate, but I did obey the directive to stop asking questions. One can say the most important lesson I learned in Sunday school was to keep my spiritual inquisitiveness in check at least until I was old enough to seek answers in my own. Meanwhile the Lutheran church has graciously adopted the Cross of Resurrection as its focal point in their churches.

Even as a very young child, the Christianity I was taught made no sense to me. How on earth could one put faith in a Father who would sacrifice his “only son” to save people who seemed bound and determined to keep acting in ways which required such an extreme measure in the first place. There was also quite a bit of conflict between what I was taught and what the Voice I heard in church told me. Yes, you read that right- in moments when focused on the beautiful music, mesmerized by the colors of the stained glass windows** there would sometimes be a Voice which spoke in my head.

Before we call for a psych eval know that this Voice did not “speak” in words so much as impressions or thoughts and always spoke of the importance of love and kindness. It was a Voice which, even at a very young age, I knew did not originate from my own mind. It is the Voice which, when I choose to listen, guides me to live from my heart, to choose compassion over judgment and continues to lead me to profound, if fleeting, experiences of the Presence of Light and permanence of Spirit.

Yeah, I know

Pretty wHeird.

And trust me, as an adult, for many years, I did everything I could to disprove the existence of this Voice. Except the more I did, the more the things this Voice told me proved to be true. Things like~

~ forgiveness releases you from the prison of holding others guilty

~ hatred is toxic and accomplishes nothing; it can and will kill you

~ most anger is self directed; letting it go brings healing

~ gratitude increases joy

~ peace is possible, see all of the above

So, in this season where tradition would have us reflect on the meaning of sacrifice and the concept of resurrection, I came back to those unanswered questions from my Sunday school days. The celebration of Easter itself has a complicated history, interlaced with pagan traditions of decorated eggs and an 18th century mystical egg laying “Osterhaus.” Much like the secular garb of Christmas, these are glittering distractions which we must go beyond to find deeper meaning.

In the spring season we grapple with resurrection and rebirth, two significantly different concepts. Rebirth is a new form of life, generated from something other than itself. Resurrection on the other hand is raising what was once dead to live again as itself. Easter, which always occurs after the Spring Equinox, is a time to be mindful of what we might resurrect in the annual cycle of rebirth. Awakening lost memories, buried wounds or guilt entombed long ago can create shock waves which unnerve our resolution to move forward. Yet, much like the contemporary “Easter eggs” of digital media and video games, these hidden elements can reveal new levels of awareness which help us live more fully in the present. To live our dreams, we must emerge from the shadows of the past and embrace the person we have become. In essence, while the past has shaped us it need not continue to define us. We can resurrect lost dreams infused with the energy of who we have become.

So fellow travelers, whatever beliefs you hold as truth, I wish blessings of this holy day to you . May the Easter eggs you find on the path bring gifts of joy as sweet as jelly beans .


Favorite Younger Daughter circa 2005

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

**Photo Note: WordPress new block format randomly refuses to place some of my photo captions where I want them, so here is the caption for the window photo: The beautiful stained glass windows at Rupert United Methodist church. Several times a year I have the blessing of visiting this wonderful faith community where my friend Tom is minister. You can find his blog Two Tiny Churches at this link.

Where Eagles Soar

So fellow travelers, one soul stirring, rock your heart out concert later

and back home, plowing (yes I mean it quite literally) through the effects of a very stubborn winter season. A few nasty tumbles on icy patches in our driveway had me sidelined for the past few weeks and the doldrums of inactivity left my spirits and creativity flat as the frozen landscape around me.

It’s rare for me to go more than a few days without getting in a good walk, even in winter. Walking clears my head and lets me cast off the little frustrations which come from working within the public education system. The simple joys of catching a bit of light cast just so on new snow, hearing a woodpecker chatter from the bare limbs of a favorite tree, feeling the warmth of sun as it slides towards the horizon a bit later each day, all these little moments of zen which renew my soul are sorely missed when I am housebound.

This morning I had reason to get up early to drive into the city

Yep, donuts!

And trust me these are donuts worth getting up early for because this local donut shop, known for their imaginative creations, has been featuring Girl Scout Cookie themed donuts all week and they saved the best for last-

Behold the Holy Grail of DonutmeetsCookie-  a Thin Mint Donut. (cue Hallelujah chorus) I know right? Who wouldn’t rise with the sun on a Saturday morning to have a chance to get one (or two) before these treasures sold out? Nevermind the frigid temperatures registering just barely in the teens- the kind of still cold air which drives even droplets of water vapor to huddle together in tightly wound plumes spiraling slowly into the ice blue morning sky.

My pilgrimage must have been sanctioned by Divine Grace for not only was I blessed with a parking spot close to the shop, but on the drive home, I caught glimpses of several bald eagles soaring over Onondaga Lake. A quick stop at an overlook along the lakeshore allowed me to watch them, too distant for photos, but within reach of my birding binoculars.

Onondaga Lake frozen over from the lookout point

Bald Eagles have been gathering in increasing numbers to winter over at the south end of the lake, where they can easily hunt for fish in an expanse of open water created by a sewage treatment plant. Aerial majesty made possible from crap* ~

There’s a life lesson woven into that thought.

Incoming Bald Eagle taken a few weeks earlier from a different vantage point on the lake. Look closely to spot it’s hunting partner in the tree. Its a “goodasitgets” cell phone shot but you can find great photos at this link to the Onondaga Audubon photog page on Facebook.

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

*for the record, the open water is created from warm filtered water which flows back into the lake. The warmth and residual nutrients draw fish (mostly carp) to that end of the lake.  Pollution from raw sewage in no longer a primary concern in the overall balance of the lake, once listed as one of the most polluted fresh water bodies in the United States. The lake’s well being continues to improve after a ten year restoration project to abate contamination accumulated from decades of municipal and industrial dumping.

Ice-ing

So fellow travelers, sometimes the detours which happen along the way lead to unexpected gifts like this lunch stop I made on the way to see my favorite band ,Switchfoot, play tonight in New Jersey.

Goyza and bubble tea at Mitsuwa

My road trips this season have been plagued by weather related delays and cancellations. It’s an “occupational” hazard which comes with being an “occupant” of the Northeastern section of the United States. The most recent casualty of this seasons series of winter storms (I believe this one was named Petra) was a much anticipated backstage meeting with the band

Back in October when I booked the event, I did so knowing anything in February holds the potential for winter weather interference. Still the event was during our mid-winter break, Philadelphia is a reasonable drive and it would be an opportunity to visit with family just outside the city.

Two days before the concert, I began to see winter storm warnings. so I proactively headed to my parents place a day early. The morning of the show, weather alerts popped up on my phone indicating the forecast now included heaviest snowfall right around the time I would be headed into the city. The show ended up being cancelled, but I knew they also had a concert scheduled two nights later in Montclair, so at least I will get to see them before I head back home. My ticket for tonight’s performance does not include the backstage pass I had for the Philly concert- but that will be honored on the rescheduled date.

The day of the Philly event, I had actually opted to drive into the city several hours early, so I would arrive at the venue ahead of the heavier snow. I had confirmed the the location of a Starbucks within walking distance of the venue, so I had a warm familiar place with good coffee and wifi to hang out until it was time to check in for the backstage event- which was several hours before the concert itself. About half an hour before check-in time I decided to head back to my car and just as I was pulling on my coat, a text message popped up on my phone. Show would be rescheduled, date to be announced.

Considerably more relieved than disappointed, I plowed my way through deepening snow back to my car which was miraculously clear; the parking area was located under I-95, providing better shelter from the elements than I expected. I noticed a handful of people, I assumed were others who would have been attending the pre-show event, walking from the venue towards the parking lot. I heard a voice comment, “It’s too bad you came all the way for no reason.” A thought I might have applied to my experience but for one encounter on the snowy drive back.

At a busy intersection where cars were slowly moving through, I had stopped to wait for the next light change. On the corner I spotted someone struggling to walk through the snow, carrying a tarp and a piece of cardboard. I reached into my bag, grabbed some cash, rolled down my window. He came right over, calling out “Oh God Bless you Ma’am” before I even handed him the money. “God bless you too sir and please get yourself someplace warm,” I told him “ Thank you Ma’am I’m trying, I will.” I watched him trudge down the sidewalk before driving away, not caring that a few cars passed around me- although they at least refrained from the usual horn blast one gets when you hold up traffic.

Every element of that crazy weather driven day aligned so I had that chance to share one act of kindness for someone whose situation far outweighed any disappointment of a postponed event. Better yet, the sleet held off until just before I pulled in at my parents home. A kind of Ice-ing on a day with surprising gifts of gratitude.

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

Walking Towards the Light

So fellow travelers, even after hitting “publish,” the last entry felt incomplete, yet I had resolved to start writing again, so I pushed an ending onto it and posted the first entry for the year. It felt more like the final entry for last year and on thinking so, this quote came to mind:

So the last shall be first, and the first, last: for many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16 ) King James Bible

It is no less mystifying to me now than when I first heard it in Sunday school over five decades ago, so rest assured I am not going to veer towards biblical pontification here.

All I know is when the phone call came this morning saying due to weather (ice this time instead of snow) school was closed, I grabbed a cup of coffee and the opportunity to sit down and review. After the final edit, I rarely re-read entries once they are posted because like an art teacher once taught us, there comes a time to put down the paint brush and walk away. Yet as I said there was something which felt incomplete, so I began re-reading and as I did, two things became clear
~ I am tired of being upset and angry about the past “situation” at work.
~ I am processing grief on several levels, past and present, and this process is weighed down by the unresolved anger so I need to attend to that first.

Traditional Japanese New Year’s decorations

Early in my exploration of spiritual paths, a group of friends and I learned a technique for working with challenging emotions. After going through the basic breathing for focus and relaxation, we visualized ourselves in a safe and sacred space. Once settled there, we would invite the emotion to enter the space, where it would be present but unable to hurt us in anyway. This allowed us to have a dialogue with the emotion to discover what it “needed” from us. The session had fascinating and for some, profoundly moving results. This morning I decided to sit with this unresolved anger and see what it had to say.

Often when I practice this technique, my anger appears as a restless, pacing tiger. Today it showed up as a snarling badger. My first thought was “I miss my tiger,” probably because while I respect the potential danger of a tiger’s power, they are after all simply big cats and I have almost as much affinity for cats as I do for dogs. We would have several if our current resident Diva was more accepting of cats. My tiger has become familiar, this badger was a mean, unpredictable intruder and it let me know in no uncertain terms it was RAVENOUS. When I asked what would satiate it’s hunger, it told me it wanted to eat my heart. No, I said, my heart holds all my hope and joy and you cannot have that. The badger screamed so loud it startled me,  but I also felt myself propelling all my frustration into that scream until there was nothing left. The badger** looked at me calmly, turned and walked away. I came out of this meditation with my heart racing and sense of release so powerful, I started sobbing.

It is time to relinquish my efforts to get any response from the district adminstration about the systemic failures which allowed a volatile situation to continue for so long. I will walk away from my career next year knowing I did what I could and hope the changes needed will come before any one is seriously physically harmed.

My time and energy are better given to other needs calling for my attention. Last year ended with a heartbreaking loss for a colleague, a young teacher whose first child was stillborn at seven months, something very close to my own experience 31 years ago. We began this year saying goodbye to an elder family member who had made the passage beyond life just before New Year’s Day. The carnations at her burial brought sudden memories of her sister ( my mother-in-law) who left this life two and a half years earlier.  A few weeks later our younger daughter returned to Portland, to continue her search for a way forward, her future more uncertain than this mother’s heart can abide. So those tears ran wild until there were none left give, running with my hope their salt can heal the fractures into a stronger spirit. Strength I will need for the journey come, because life goes on and it is time to set out on the path again.

Winter Light on a favorite path

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

**Postscript: In fairness to the many taxidea taxus who inhabit our region it should be noted that although they are omnivores who consumer small rodents and birds when they can catch them, their diet consists mainly of earthworms. I think my heart is safe.

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.