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.

Rewriting History

So fellow travelers- strange dark and troubled waters we find ourselves navigating these days.

First, I pray you and those you love are safe and well. The time is coming when every one of us will know someone, perhaps even ourselves, who has been touched by this viral wave sweeping across our home planet. I see it as an unprecedented transformational experience. While humanity has survived numerous pandemics ( and will survive this one as well ) it has never been so intricately and immediately connected as we are right now. This wave hit fast, hard and will leave an impact we will feel long after the last case has been diagnosed. Hold tight fellow travelers, this journey has taken quite the sudden plot twist.  

someone shares my dark sense of humor

Normally I am pretty disciplined in my interactions on social media. Right now, with our schools transitioned to remote instruction, honestly I am so busy adjusting to new online platforms I don’t have time to keep up with my social media feed. It is however the best way for me to keep in touch with friends and family in this time of “stay home” protocols.

No surprise emotions are running pretty high everywhere, so I started getting drawn into responding a bit more to comments by adding my own perspective. (If you’ve followed this blog for a while you know me and my signature #spreadhopenotfear .) One response** on a friend’s post showing appreciation for NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership drew a surprisingly negative reaction from someone I respected. The gist of it was that the knowledge I shared in my comment (which contained facts backing up my comment) was not as valid because I am a teaching assistant not a teacher,  not a content expert in history and implied my support was driven by blindly accepting “sound bite” media.

OUCH- While being online many more hours a day than I am used to does create some eye-strain, the only blindness I’m experiencing is the blindside of being slapped down for being a lower ranked educator.  I may “just” be a TA ( teaching assistant ) however I do have a college degree in both media AND education. I may not be a content expert in every class I am assigned to but I am intelligent, well read and always seeking to learn more. I use my research skills to sort through information; I rely on science, facts and first hand accounts (aka “primary sources”) not hyperbolic media hype (left or right leaning.) I can spot a #fakenews story easier than dog hair (which is pretty much everywhere in my life) and I know how to read body language to discern when people are lying ( No, I am not a covert CIA agent- but I know people are- …kidding ….maybe.)

The

bottom

line

I have I OFTEN disagreed with Gov. Cuomo on his approach to issues in the past. That was then, this is now. And the bottom line is what we are dealing with NOW is an unprecedented global crisis. The opinion that the rapid spread in NY is due to poor leadership does not equate with well documented facts about what is happening almost everywhere around the world. Regardless of decades of warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) almost no country or leader was prepared.The few exceptions have been a handful of countries with fewer personal freedoms and stronger government controls which instituted universal mandatory confinement within a relatively short time of the outbreak in their country- something that will not fly in America, land of the free and don’t tread on me (observe the push back from simple “stay home” protocols right here at home.)

 Why was everyone so unprepared?
 (trigger warning for my friends who deal with anxiety and/or trauma PTSD. This is a very sobering section, proceed slowly or head right down to the Looking Ahead piece)
Medical experts explain that COVID19 is different, even from other viruses in the same category.  It is stealthy ( most contagious before symptoms present) its efficient (reproduces rapidly right after exposure) its sinister (takes close to two weeks to run its course – thereby prolonging the transmission rate). We do not (yet) have a vaccine or an effective treatment (there isn’t a”tamiflu” equivalent “-yet) 

Most countries and leaders looked back at recent viral outbreaks SARS, MERS Ebola and expected to have a lot more time to “get head” of the infection rate. Experts in Washington State where the first case in the US was diagnosed alerted the CDC, looking for directives in how to proceed. Suffice to say (and this is well documented) there was no sense of urgency from the CDC or federal government, regardless of the rapidly rising infection rate and death toll China was starting to report. Fortunately, Washington state and local leadership paid more attention to what farsighted countries were doing and instituted precautionary closures of vulnerable locations in Seattle early on and when the outbreak spread, so did the precautionary measures. Unfortunately it was not until Italy’s crisis became world news that other countries, including the US, realized the potential severity of this pandemic. And as of the time of this post (March 27, 2020) there are regions in the US where the outbreak is just beginning to bloom, that continue to disregard the warning signs of growing numbers. They have not taken to heart the clear implications of taking a “wait and see” approach. Many of those regions are rural areas highly vulnerable to having smaller medical facilities quickly overwhelmed with tragic results.

Looking ahead

Looking Ahead #lookforthehelpers- Since my ethereal snow goose experience about three weeks ago I have struggled to write about this experience of living through a pandemic. I see now the hidden gift in that stinging slap down, because it pushed me to find truth in my emotions and here I am pounding out the words which were buried in those feelings.

And there is more to come. If nothing else, I have broken through the anger (which too often feels like a forbidden emotion- a habitual pattern from childhood) and found a way to voice my truth without undue rancor. I have neither the time nor the desire to fuel the critical, angry attitude which poisons social media. I want, I NEED to focus my energy on supporting my students, my friends and family, my creative tribe. My greatest hope is for humanity to come out of this shadow into a better world, one of global cooperation, compassion and connection.  Historically, that has not been the after effect of epidemics and pandemics.

Maybe it’s time we rewrote history.

Walk gently on the path my friends, safe distance apart and may you live to find adventure when this shadow has passed.

**Post edit note: I would like to make it clear the comment I referred to was NOT made by anyone I work with. My colleagues in our district have always treated me as an equal and respected my contributions. I appreciate them deeply for that.

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

View original post

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

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