Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Mind and Soul as Compass

Mt. Hood

As I was walking the trails around our area, I practiced locating where they all interconnected–as far as I have explored–and how each one has taken me back. It is useful for strengthening recall since we haven’t lived here very long. And it’s a pleasing exercise; I like to use different perspectives in my mental imaging, as though traversing from one direction, then another, then another. I can see in mind’s eye each route the unfolding scenery, pauses taken along the way, different housing clusters that peek through woods or circumnavigate greenways, how main and side streets curl and crisscross. I happily meander.

Mountain Park is a neighborhood of 700 acres on a volcanic hillside; there are 8 miles of trails. They seem complex as they snake this way and that, lead through trees, tunnels, up hillsides, by creeks. Likely we’ve trod only about 75% so far–time being an issue and partly due to their often climbing steeply, requiring endurance harder to maintain in summer’s blasting heat. It can be challenging even in cool weather rains. But I–or both of us– go out every day a good hour. I don’t worry about getting lost. I have a small map inside my head, and if I end up somewhere surprising, I can retrace steps. I also trust a new trail link will lead back to one I recognize better. There are, of course, landmarks even in wooded areas.

The only time I felt a bit nervous was when there was news of a cougar outside the state park boundaries, prowling by homes on the east side of the city. But that was a fair distance. And I want to walk so off I went. I don’t know where the cougar is. He/she possesses supreme stealth, but is more likely to hunt in a state park forest. However, I do see rabbits and lots of birds, bees and other insects, a snake now and then, and people like us who love being under the treetops and working up a sweat. Once I thought I thought I saw a coyote and likely did; it melted into the dusk.

I do have a well attuned sense of direction so rarely get lost. Oh, occasionally misaligned, but briefly. I’m grateful; I got it from my mother, perhaps. My father made sure there was a good working compass mounted on the car dashboard when we took trips. And then he proceeded to go off route, intentionally, unconcerned thanks to his sense of adventure and trusty compass. My mother tut-tutted–it took longer his way to reach destinations but if he did get lose his bearings she enlightened him. A great map reader/navigator (back when there were colorful fold out maps), mostly she gazed at landscape and pointed. Off we went. If we did get lost it was treated as part of the trip, not cause for distress other than wondering when we’d find the next restroom or cafe. (I realize my spouse and I are the same; he agrees he has a poor sense of direction, a poor visual memory when on the move. (GPS was made for those like him; he travels quite a bit for work and relies on it.)

As I was revisiting the trail system mentally–huffing and puffing in 85 degree heat, water bottle in hand–I saw it as a metaphor for how I try to live life: trust my sense of direction, rely on instinct/intuition. And God’s guidance and care. I say “try” because my one weak point is worry about my loved ones. I can get bound up in a tangle of possible disastrous scenarios in a blink of an eye, at times. Especially when I awaken for no good reason at 2:50 a.m. from a deep sleep. Oh, right–a perfect time to worry right into full exhaustion.

Case in point: my son and his new wife went off camping and rock hounding all the way to Montana on Monday. They started off in Washington; no word since they were on their way. This makes me a little anxious. Not that I would often hear from him; they’ve had to travel through mountain ranges and forests where cell reception is sparse. Josh travels fairly often and they’re veteran campers. He is very independent, following his own path. When six, he took off early on bike into our new neighborhood. I didn’t see him until dinnertime when he brought new friends to the table. Did I worry then? Some… not really. He always paid attention to surroundings, found his way back–and it was 1980 when kids freely roamed about. Besides, he inherited his grandmother’s uncanny sense of direction, too.

So today after considering these facts, I chose to turn the annoyance of worry over to God in prayer. After all, they’re also on their honeymoon, not thinking of me! He will communicate as he can/wants.

Also, my oldest daughter is driving from Colorado to South Carolina by herself–from visiting her boyfriend to a return to her home and teaching position. This is an old story for her, too–she goes solo out of the country, as well. It’s not uncommon for her to drive great distances. She also figures direction well, knows her way around busy highways and lonely roads, and she travels smart, takes care. She stays briefly in touch.

But there is that blasted impulse to worry a thought thin. And worry is a kind of disease: truly, a state of dis-ease, imbalance, a tension that undermines helpful insight. And there have been a few serious matters to worry over this year, so far, and worry did not aid me in a pursuit of solutions or succor. The real glitch about perseveration–and that powerful director of such thinking, trenchant negativity– is that it not only takes up time and energy, it obscures the picture rather than clarifying it. Issues multiply and become fuzzier. One becomes worn out, not refreshed and refocused.

I am fond of the idea of mind-linked-to-soul as a good compass. I find it can correct missteps, redirect, reiterate or discover essential ways and means to “home”– and thus enable me to better proceed. It well informs me. How can I be certain? I am questioned by friends, family and my own doubting self at times. It isn’t that I am always one hundred percent certain every time I need good, orderly direction. But I have a proclivity for that loaded word–trust. That’s the thing. Despite making significant mistakes over decades and experiencing deep losses and being uncertain of the future like everyone else–I trust I’ll get through difficulties. Even being lost.

And I have been badly lost at certain life junctures, the sort of lost that is hard to note. Like childhood sexual abuse, three rapes during youth and adulthood, domestic violence that finally resulted in my being nearly run over–someone walking up the road screamed “Move out of the way!” just in time– by my then-partner. Or when I experienced a toxic psychosis at age 19, resultant of a lot of amphetamine mixed with other drugs, and then being carted off to “the dungeon”, a poorly staffed, badly managed Gothic structure that was officially called a hospital that was actually, I still think, hell–and that took a court order for me to be released to my parents. And there were other brushes with death that left me thinking that it was really too strange that I stayed alive.

Let me not get started on the lives of my family and friends, my own children. They, too, have had hardships and nightmares to live through and, well, I love them so. The hurdles needing to be overcome have been many. Tests of endurance. It seems the fate of being human that we collect calamities of one sort of another…

So, some experience wandering lost in the dark. Confounded, feeling alone. Yet I do not truly fear being lost. For one thing, been there, gotten through stuff. But more so, a certainty that I can investigate and glean more information that will be advantageous. Other people can be more helpful than imagined. And I grasp onto what makes sense- by this age, it is clear common sense underlies so much, if we just pay heed. Add some intuition- more is revealed.

One thing that has not changed is that I have faith in a Divine Love that does not quit. (Perhaps it has become more fierce a belief.) This is my “true north” spiritually, how I live my daily life. When I am fearful of an outcome or just worn by it all, that faith does not weaken or leave me. It is an intrinsic part of me, that numinous Light a tremendous hope for the better. It has sustained me through all difficulties. I call on God and as I do so I call on God within me and all others I come across. By doing so, I can seek what helps, not harms. It is not hard to pray for clarification of intelligent–that is, loving and solution-focused– directions. It can be still a trial to quiet my selfish worry arising from fear of more loss. and a sudden lack of certainty in ongoing strength and the beauty of this human life.

But when things do get tied up in cat’s cradles, I go to the source of peace, of fortitude–my faith in God. And pieces will begin to fall in place once more. I disengage from anxious energy, become renewed in soul and mind. It is superfluous, this worrying snag. So I use my rescue procedure from nagging thoughts that are distorted and magnified.

What really matters most to me? I ask myself again. Get back to basics. God: God’s creative genius, God-ness alive in others, and living God’s way of compassion with courage. The power of that is what brings me back to fresh possibilities. To my good sense. It is a sweet medicine of hope, clarification of calmed mind and heart. I am not alone as I go on.

It seems easy to doubt; I am not immune. The world appears to be shattering about us in pieces that fall and fly, strike randomly and stymie the desire for well being, much less happiness. There is simply more horror than we can take in, begin to understand. Threats of worse and the specter of helplessness test our resolve to stand firm, try to do what is good and true. To speak up, help one another, to just keep on and seek better answers. For perseverance is a big part of finding the way. We cannot afford to give up; so much is at stake. But to trust that innermost compass (or share one that works well), have some faith that what is better and best about being human will yet illuminate a way ahead. Why not stand up, trek forward? Move as if you know where you are going–you likely do. Or will learn the lay of the land as you proceed. And, too, there are moments of sheer synchronicity that come into force and aid us.

Not surprisingly, my son texted me as I finished this: “In Montana! Great time! Heading toward Yellowstone!” My daughter, too: “Doing fine, in Alabama, heading to Atlanta.”

For now, all is well. This is what I hold close. Whatever comes will arrive moment by moment, hour by hour, day by night by day, as before. And if I have the good fortune of being here, I will meet it. If not, then with God, in any case. I am not ever utterly lost. I know where home is and it is here, within, where it always was.

Cascade Mountains

Friday’s Passing Fancy: Walking the New Woodsy Neighborhood

Adaptation to our new “woodsy life” continues. It is a dream come at least partially true, although there is still plenty of human made architecture and amenities in the area. I have noticed a couple of insects here and there that sneaked inside and the bees are quite busy working.

We have long been fascinated by birds. We spotted two hummingbirds flying high into a spruce and my son, Joshua, his young son and his fiancee noted one that was voicing avian commentary and beating wings even higher while we took a family walk. I just added a good bird feeder on the balcony to see what we attract, as well as preparing the hummingbird feeder. Not that we didn’t have birds (and yet, so many crows) in the city center. And there are moments I miss the old neighborhood with the lush gardens and energized streets. But it is even even more delightful to watch the birds fly, labor and sing in a quiet, more natural habitat. We have binoculars at the ready.

Walking daily on trails that interconnect for miles is a deep pleasure; every day is a surprise. We will discover more this week-end as we seek and find the choice views and paths further from us. In the meantime, here are pictures of a few of the views.

Some of you may recall I eagerly await the births of our youngest daughter’s twins. I foolishly asked her to go on a short walk recently, then looked again at her great burgeoning roundness and her expression… sure thing–but in a few months, as their arrival is imminent! Two baby girls will be fun to chase up and down trails one day!

I hope you all can get out and walk, hike or otherwise have fun within nature or the city–whatever you prefer! Keep all senses at the ready and your spirit open!

Moving Days

Despite my sudden absence lately, I have not foregone my usual posts without regret. I have had a dental problem to encourage to better heal just as we became mad-busy with preparations for vacating of our decades-long home for a new one tomorrow. So significant lingering pain (plus inability to eat well) has underlain the constant energy output of sorting/tossing/packing, conducting household and other business, and developing a clear strategy for our near future. We will remain in the Portland metro area but in a quite different setting. And finally I have resolved to make it as welcoming as this old place, and to discover all the possibilities that await us in a new area. It is not easy to let go of all the good we have welcomed and shared while here.

The benefits of moving, of course, include taking a leap of faith and learning about people not yet met; natural environments not explored and enjoyed; and putting in place routines and activities that accommodate fresh obligations, choices and surprises awaiting us.

I feel fortunate we’ve enjoyed a congenial, stable lifestyle for 25 years in a close-in city center neighborhood. And it is also designated as a historical one that is both lovely and inspiring architecturally. And the gardens–divine, lush. But there i a rush of new building going on; our five-plex will be sold sooner than later and the who know what.

Any neighborhood has its history, its stories, and we will slowly root out those threads that connect one thing to another. It is people who make a place what it is, after all–that, and the land that it grows into and with.

This move is largely due to our youngest daughter expecting twins in April. She is a medically high risk mother– and a successful career woman who is fiercely independent. My son-in-law is a fine husband for her, smart, kind and dependable. But this time I will answer the call as I have not since her youth. And I will be caring for twins a few days a week when she returns to work for quite a while. If that is not an adventure, I don’t know what is. Two new human beings come to earth…what an honor to be up so close and personal. And what a lot of work, of course, that we will all tackle together!

We have another daughter living near the new place who will undergo major surgery next week; this may mean a few weeks of recuperation. We have invited her to stay with us until she is feeling stronger once more. We are taking this a day at a time with her. And it will be such a pleasure to have two daughters closer to us again.

So writing may become more sparse beginning the next month or so; that could be difficult for me. But it is just as likely that writing will remain just what I desire and need to do, so I’ll manage it even in small bits despite tiring times. Well, I may have to start a new blog about “Twin Grandmothering” escapades…

I have been musing over how rich and fascinating a life I’ve had raising five children–then being frequently involved with some of their own children. And all this for a young woman who had nary a thought of becoming a mother at 23. I was a bit of a spitfire then, drawn to the arts with soulful devotion as well as enjoying various intellectual and political pursuits, and quite in love with my new husband the sculptor. I, then, found it perplexing that I was gaining weight as we crisscrossed the western states one summer in our old El Camino. Many months later–just 6 and a 1/2, actually–I was unprepared when our first child was born. Outside a blizzard covered the hometown as the tiny one struggled to gain a greater foothold on the earth at a mere 2 and 1/2 pounds. That she survived in the early seventies when limited technology could offer so little to save preemies…it was a miraculous event to behold. And the start of a rather strange, wonder-filled life, woven of worry, mundane labor and supreme delight. A life of great humbling “otherness”–it was about adoration, and welfare of children. No longer just my spouse, my own self. It was revelatory, as it is for every new parent.

So at sixty-eight, another door is opening as another swings shut: a new home, new babies, new chores and joys. Finding my way once more, learning as I go.

I will write and photograph as often as possible–and share with you appreciated readers as I can. I hope you are creating somehow daily–what is a life but incremental creations? I will look forward to your  inspiring offerings often.

Be well and open to sharing of good love; be ready to experience the small, curious, stunning moments that help shape our lives along with lessons of loss or the odd detour or unsettling bewilderment. We are in it for the whole messy, colorful story, are we not?

 

Wednesday’s Words/ Nonfiction: Teeth and How They Can Rule

Due to an unpleasant dental matter and another tomorrow–the actual extraction–I lack great inspiration today. Sometimes I think my dental escapades have more power over me than I can admit. I give more time and energy to them than I would like. Like today. As every Wednesday, I would love to be writing at length–several hours. But a lower left aching tooth has another idea. Enthusiasm can depend on pain-free vitality–it often corresponds to sharp mental faculties. And good humor.

“This is not what I need right now,” I mumble while leaving my dentist’s office. Dr. K. probed and examined, came up with the plan. Not pleasing but essential.

I hightail it to a favorite coffee shop–called, humorously, Insomnia–and order an Aztec Mocha, half-caff, almond milk, no whip. Then add a huge piece of cinnamon coffee cake. My reward, always. Plus I may as well indulge, as tomorrow will be another story. I slurp, nibble and smile despite the numb left side of tongue and face.

I had an issue with that tooth a few months ago; we had planned a lovely new (second) crown. But other experiences interfered: three deaths (loathe to bring this up again but they sure impacted life) and required travel, my husband’s sudden and lingering illness, the holidays with adult children and grandkids, a monster cold virus that held me hostage, diligent house hunting, then a random staph infection. Now I am packing and addressing tedious details of moving. Keeping in my sights my “true north” so I stay the course.

And now a small dental crisis…so it goes. One must cope–so many of life’s events are not very convenient. Writing time will be brief; tomorrow I will rest after the troublesome thing is pulled.

But now I realize I’ve already written a personal essay that states what fits for today. It’s about the first dentist I came to tolerate after my one childhood dentist (who I well admired–charming and excellent) and after that, forty years of dentists that I did not whatsoever. Then Dr. K showed up on the scene and all was better than I ever expected. Not that it is a thrill to go. There is still that slight resistance–a subtle urge to get up and slip out the door– as I settle into that chair. But I say my dental prayer. And she remains kindly, attentive, at times funny, ethical and expert at her work. She has completed very fine work with my problematic “pearly off-whites.” (She even fashioned new front teeth for the hairline-fractured ones; this triggered tears as I peeked in the mirror.) And since she believes in Divine Love–she says her own prayers before work– that compassionate attitude toward life makes an authentic difference.

So it follows that I care about Dr. K., her family (I have met a few folks) and the dentistry practice. How many dentists treat patients as part of their extended personal community? And make your teeth better as well as make you laugh? (“Here is that gold from the crown,” she said today as she handed it to me. “Go pawn it for good money!”)

Yes, I’ll heal up once more–such resilience our bodies have– and will inevitably see her a more this year. I keep faith despite lousy dental genes.

I have a few bites left of coffee cake, a last sip of cooled Aztec Mocha–so please enjoy this story from 2014: The Scary One With That Power Tool Might Be an Angel

 

 

 

A Weekend’s Quick Pick: Finding Home

This is a woman on an unassuming balcony that has served her well for 23 years. It overlooks a peach-colored house and the glittering, rambunctious city. And the balcony will be missed and it will miss her, perhaps. They have kept each other company this long: part of a lifetime.

This is the place she has gathered family and friends, let stories step forward to speak, danced barefoot in a blue skirt to music resonant in belly and brain, risen in the softening wash of dawn, sung to herself. Lain face upwards, hands open, staring at nothing after heart disease got her early and was told she might have a few years more. Which did not undo her, even weighted with fears. Got busy, a kind of salvation for much of human living. Sought to cheer others, another act of mercy for the woman who offered, not only a few others.

She gathered stars as they breathed in the cave of the dark; when did they not see all and give their all, wasn’t it their destiny? Could she aspire to any less in the end? And so she faced matters as they came hand, gave hope more space. Let God keep her, whole or not.

This is where she has lathered and spun two thousand socks and kitchen towels, saved ruby red petals that fell from geraniums in the wake of streaming rain. Where the books have lived clandestine lives and language admitted her to its domain with beckoning phrase and whisper, where her own language circuits rattled her teeth with odd feats and loosened dreaming..and night welcomed her, made garlands around the moon and her shoulders.

 

This is a place the years have been plumped and embroidered with many hearts, children or grown ones,  such hands opened and hands filled with spillage of love and barren with loss, an agitation of wants and needs, a palette of feeling and music that has risen from sky and the dense, sweetening earth.

The ache of being exposed to more love coupled with its miracle and the pleasure of more willingness: she was no longer a victim of anything. Two feet to stand on, two knees to kneel. This was what the place gave her: opportunity to transform, renew.

This was a place that was supposed to be just a change station, a slow, muscular crossing from one aspect of life to  another, a temporary platform for ideas and goals to be challenged and completed. And then left behind on the serpentine trail.

But it was not.

It was a steady embrace, a safe abode for time shared–even time given away. A galaxy of small things that startled, the relentless unknowns surrounding what seemed often a small, leaky boat carrying such few tools alongside the rowing woman.

And a larger tale wrote itself from humility’s gentling hurt, then from stillness amid rushes of hope. A revelation, this wide spot in the powerful river upon whose banks she built a life in a long slow reveal. Ordinary weeping, laughing, watching and waiting, simplest doings; surprises of living make their marks, a deepening identity. She stirs and rises to greet more.

And more change so soon. Why resist when acquiescence, adjustment, reconstruction all underlay the physics of living things? Of women and men?

A new home will fit itself about her, a daily insistence of tasks, and faith and patience will illumine. She will reconfigure doubts, smooth out contention, just breathe. Place fresh geraniums and old on a new, bigger balcony. Where can this woman live that some unexpected folly or a plan of victory do not happen? What human cannot make a found patch into a home? Even the beetles, even the moss. The eagles and Arctic foxes. Even those all alone in their wandering do it. The brave young, the tempered old. It is managed each day by greater or smaller so she can do it; it will be completed again.

Every one sooner or later leaves for something or someone else, or migrates due to wanderlust or seeks out of desire. Rebuilds to survive. No being is static, even if they believe it so. Step, pause, leap, slide, turn, hang on, reach, thrive. Create.

Yes, another wayside, a still unknown beginning, but there are these that entice: giant fir trees atop a bluff, wind like a call and response, sleekness of coyotes slipping undercover. More liveliness aroused–two whole new beings from a daughter’s unstoppable faith and petite belly. The work and the play of it arriving with anticipation, unbridled energy. Goodness abounds. The woman will gather bird songs and new slant of light, sigh inside darkness and bring babies’ coos close. Open up that heart, something tells her, let it match more rhythms with this living.

The place will slowly become a home, another way to the center of things. Is not the way of the earth and those who dwell here for this short human span?

That woman: myself. Readying for more. Preparing to learn and adapt, allow these happenings as my soul hesitates and rises. I want to stoke a good fire and create another circle for the hearing and telling of this and that. There is forever another story. May I live it as a willing conduit.

I must remember: Love is the path that makes a way in the wilderness; I am another pilgrim who seeks, is sought; finds, is found. The home I best inhabit is the one I carry within and also beyond.