I ran out of time today to complete a post based on outings over the week-end. Between visiting my sister most of the day and then my son and daughter-in-law, the hours flew by. I am also in anticipation of a few events, including spring’s unfolding (see above), as well as our daughter’s arrival from Virginia on Fri. This coincides with several birthdays this month and in April, as well as remembrance of family death dates. I also just learned a sister-in-law is going on hospice care. Grief can seep into beauty, so spring can seem a mixed arena within which to live. I am beyond grateful for each bud, leaflet and startling bloom; the richer sunshine with longer days; fragrant breezes, chorusing birds and a kaleidoscope of colors that overlay the waning greys of winter and brighten the rains of spring. I’ve been walking more vigorously since a cortisone shot to knee and physical therapy. And I do look forward to farther-flung travels as spring and summer come into their glory–and the Covid infection rates dive.
Yet right now the jumble of upcoming birthday celebrations of loved ones coupled with losses can yank me into waves of sadness and tire me out. It’s the contrast of it, the jubilant yes rubbing against the droning no…I have to practice internal balance, and I want to support others, too. I need to strengthen and gird my heart, even as it softens and unfurls like a magnolia bud. I do have God’s presence to keep me steady.
One thing that helps is to travel virtually. Via photography books/blogs, computer or television options, sure, but I really mean mentally. It’s easy and free, after all.
Especially when I have trouble sleeping or keeping my mind on hopeful musings (as has happened lately), I take myself to places I have loved by visualizing them. I think we all do this, and perhaps should more often, as it helps supplant a challnegingt state of being with a nourishing one. For me, one such place is Interlochen, Michigan, where I attended Interlochen Summer Arts Camp (there were others, but Interlochen was the finest)) when growing up. When we visited a few years back, I looked out over Duck Lake and Green lake and thought: making music, writing, acting and dancing in this place infused me with lifesaving hope, enabling me to further pursue passions. The experiences brought revelatory moments with people, places, moments which gave mind and spirit a radiant new sheen, offering freedom to help build a better self, as well as work on skills and talents. I was, then, right at home in that world.
So– that is why I shared, below, the shot of me at Interlochen from that trip, enlivened by great memories, sitting beside a favorite lake in the sweet-summered open air. The scope of life enhancements was such that I could enumerate many blessings as a youth– when much of my world seemed frayed. I can close my eyes and be there…I tell myself: this is true life as much as the hurt of leavetaking; this is faith moving right in the center of troubles. Happiness can be kept holy in divergent ways, and may it be so as needed. This world is so traumatized. I humbly embrace any small gift, and pray for those who are aching and wanting.
I will likely write this “Wednesday’s Words” post, but not a “Friday’s Poem”, and may find it difficult to contribute posts next week due to family activities and several obligations. I will be back. Meantime, I hope you awaken moments of grace in your lives…and keep sharing good love every day. We all need both.
I haven’t set foot into a church sanctuary since the pandemic shut things down. The above photo was taken at a church we attended a couple of years– First Presybyterian Church, solid but exquisite, built in 1887. A city center church community, it is lovely architecturally. And I miss it at times. Though some restrictions are eased, I’m not so sure about singing and praying wiith densely grouped humanity just yet. The Season naturally beckons me to join in and sing out from heart and soul.
Still, I am waiting. Even if safety seems more relative than ever. Marc and I can choose–have over the past two and a half years, ocasionally–attending online services. We share our own spiritual inquiry and read Scripture aloud to one another sometimes. I have a daily practice of reading the Bible and other sources of wisdom. The truth, is my faith is not tied to a building or a congregation. I have been a praying person since I was a tiny child, and God is to me both omnipresent and personal. However, I grew up in the First United Methodist Church in Michigan. My family was engaged in education classes, music and fellowship. I played an angel in the Nativity story, sang countless carols and hymns during this season, and harmonized with my family enscounced in (left side) the pews. Our sanctuary was decorated to add to the gentle beauty; the sacred music was transporting. And there were sweetly tantalizing cinnamon buns made in the big church kitchen by a work force of cheerful youths and adults.
But that was my childhood and youth. Since then, I have attended many churches (and other places of spiritual sustenance–including AA and NA). I have had a few painful crises of faith when life seemed unendurable. I have left more churches than I have stayed with…yet the traditions stay with me as well as the belief. I respected my childhood church, counted on its constancy. I was accepted despite any rebellions, my struggles, though it wasn’t easy to feel often prayerd for, to stick out at times. I still think it was exceptional, mostly helmed by good men and women. I have yet to discover another I love half as much. Much music that imbues my adult life was rooted in classical (and sacred) music as well as old familiar hymns that dominated services. (Our father led the adult choir for years, oversaw music programming.) They brought tears to my eyes as I sang, even as deep joy rose up. I still cannot sing those songs, even at home, without feeling a bit weepy; it is part of my experience. They speak to a more gracious life filled with a greater puprose. And illustrate a courageous, kinder humanity who can be more deeply aligned with the Divine Creator.
Today as I write, however, I am listening to Sting. His atmospheric, almost melancholic album playing is “If on a Winter’s Night”, a collection of traditional songs, lullabies and carols from the British Isles. It takes me to much older times and places, to valleys and mountains that have existed foreever, and the moors Sting must know well…to shadows and drifting light, to silent midnights and slow, solitary sunrises. It harkens back to an elemental part of my humaness, the spiritual energy that lives throughout time. I am very moved. Maybe it’s my maternal grandparents’ Scottish-Irish-English bood in my veins, but I lean into this music. And tonight this music pulls me into winter’s delights and mysteries even more.
A time of turning inward, more often resting, seeking clarity of mind in the increasing cold, and sorting out things–literal and otherwise– as life-giving rain pours down on tall firs and bony trees outside my door in the Northwest. As Christmas nears, I seek more coziness and ponder the ways and means that have brought me to this time. A quieter, softer state.
No matter what is going on, I instinctively look up as I move with expectancy in daily life. I don;t want to miss what is about me, what is coming, But I have no hesitancy of bending my knees, seeking God’s succor and guidance. Perhaps I tend toward being an idealist, even a romantic–I don’t regret it–but I’m willing and able to face reality’s stunning trials, its insistent lessons. As a person who follows Christ’s teachings, I believe in the healing and liberating powers of a revolutionary compassion; authentic engagement with others; and the possibilites of hope which strives to do whatever good is needed. To forgive, to be generous despite my failures and flaws. To humbly accept a small place in the universal design.
It is, though, difficult to claim my faith openly at times. In this part of the country–which I so admire and defend as well as can take issue with–the act of stating I am Christian can seem like stepping into a fight ring. Or being almost shunned, derided. I am not who those folks instantly decide I am: “judgmental, hypocritical, closed minded, far right wing, uneducated in world religions or tolerant of t hose who do not believe in a God.” It is strange to be made to fit a preconceived notion.
So I know what it is to be stereotyped as other groups are. I don’t argue. If my behavior and manner are not enough to offset those prejudices in the end, I need to work on these. But then so be it, I can change no one–nor they, me. I am on my own path to improvement with alot of help from others–and wisdom and strength of my faith. We each will follow our own calling, attach to beliefs we choose. I, then, study a true social and cultural radical’s teachings that includes acknowledging and practicing a higher love, first and last–and wonder how much of what was actually taught was lost or destroyed– and his name is Jesus the Christ.
I admit that institutionalized religions are more a strange puzzle to me than not. I do not understand formal religions’ power struggles and wars, the historical political maneuverings, the various social restrictions. Sexism. (Jesus welcomed women to praise God and seek truth along with him.) The horrific genocides. (Jesus spoke angrily about those who hated others unlike themselves.) I am breathless when I think how, at times, religion’s greed and condemnations can harm us, too. What can it mean to profess compassion–but then harm others? This world is dangerous and harsh as it is, scarred by outrage, hopelessness and suffering. We need more care and courage. We need to rise up in Light.
I go about my quiet search for truths. I keep it fairly simple and to the point. I sense God, seek to discover God– and God finds me in everyday life, in nature, through people of every sort. And this is the source of any courage, strength and hope that has centered and deepened me in all the ways I need it.
I didn;t grow up wearing a cross or seeing crosses in our rooms. But I’m pleased I don’t have to hide my Celtic cross in public. For decades I worked in places it was deemed unacceptable to note one’s religion or politics, especially if they happened to just be unpopular. So today I wore my cross out on my sweater as I ran errands–as I do more often since retirement. Plus, it is the Advent Season so it has meaning to me. (Even though I don’t necessarily think Jesus was born this time of year. Sources indicate it was likely June since it is said his parents, Joseph and Mary, were going to register to be taxed in Bethlehem.) I value it; it was also given to me long ago by my husband. It speaks of a welcome to God, meant to offer peace, wholeness and universal, everlasting love. At least, that is how I see it. It gives inspiration to meditate when I see it. I remember I am part of God; God is part of me. And you. I wear it respectfully as a Christian symbol, as others wear symbols of their faith or other beliefs.
We can each become wiser, I am certain of that. Or we can try to act as if we have decent insight and see if we gain smarter, better ones. We can be more charitable, that is for sure–whoever we are, wherever we live. Motivation for acts of consideration are within our grasp, as are the good outcomes. Charity, the seed of which lives within us, is a celebratory act any day of the year, I remind myself. I lately think of it more as I searchg for unique gifts for those I know well– or donate money or needed items to those I don’t know and likely will never meet. We all do our bit and how easy to give to another.
Well, Sting’s CD has ended. I am appreciative of his creative wealth shared; I’ve listened to him for years. But now traditional Celtic Christmas music plays on. Carols of another place delight me. It is that sort of night, one of shdaow and light. A touch of mystery in the air. I study our small fake tree–we will not cut down a real one, anymore, it seems. I may miss the pungent piney scent. But this is pleasing, too, as it’s now decorated with white lights twinkling and decades-old ornaments, some of which I decoupaged at 24.
I sure hope–there’s hope again, carrying worries, dreams, my whole messy self–our family can come Christimas Eve and/or Day. I keep acting like it will happen. No matter what we do, I’m here and grateful for that. Ready for more joy. We have missed some holidays, just being together. I think most people desire good times with beloved families.
I can’t wait to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” though “Jingle Bells” is our twin granddaughters’ favorite right now. Sugar cookies and more. Gift swap. Dinner, brunch and laughter. To gaze at their faces, hear their voices more.
May you and yours enjoy–or create–meaningful traditions during the coming holidays.
When I began this blogging adventure, I actually created and wrote one separate blog for poetry; another for prose; and one for photgraphy. Then I condensed the format (it got a bit much) so it became one blog that spanned three basic genres of fiction, nonfiction and poetry (with subgenres), as well as photography widely interspersed. It has evolved like most blogs do– and I have evloved, I suppose, and thus found my way from one kind of expression to different ones. I could spend more time on design, presentation and so on. (Proofreading more carefully, my apologies; also, there is a physical explanation for my poor typing–but another time!) I might attract more readers, who knows? (I guess I have well over 15,000 readers, but I have doubts about that count.) I lack motivation to experiment with it more, still. Maybe in 2022–year 12?
The bottom line is that I write and photograph because I am a creative person –here among countless others. I so love the process. The end results are of interest, but it is the actual doing whatever I do that magnetizes me, holds me captive until I am done enough. I spend on average 6-8 hours three days a week writing posts, working on the blog. I could do more ambitious things like submit work again, tackle another novel, explore art more seriously, get back to music (my cello sleeps upstairs in a corner; my voice hums very quietly). Some days I suspect I blog so much because I can procrastinate re: taking riskier chances out there. Perhaps, or perhaps not. I keep at this because it is a pleasure to do it, within a parcel of time put aside for myself. A rambling journey that takes me to bloggers and readers. We can all equally exchange our work and thoughts here. An overall democratic platform. I peruse the work of others, then begin once more.
In 2010, I had an active career in the mental health field, providing assessments, doing education groups several times a day, and counseling clients via individual therapy as well as group therapy. I valued and enjoyed my work. But I needed to write more. To breathe more freely, cleanse myself of the trauma and loss of those complex lives that could hover about my being when I got home. I had long been keen on good self-care and did a decent job of it. But that part of me that yearned to be more creative for myself first and last nagged at me. I was hungry and thirsty for it. I looked into blogging for that fun and release, for greater community with others, and another route to creative growth. It worked out nicely. I have been happy to keep my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule (more or less) for all this time. I am nothing if not a persistent sort, it appears.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I, like many millions, am a bit worn by the anxiety and drear that try to engulf us. I refuse to give in to it. I may weep and gnash teeth now and then, but then I am done–until the next time. I get up from the floor. And not that I don’t know sorrow. I grieve the vanishing of easy freedom and also people. In just the past year my 26 year old granddaughter died. My older and only remaining sister is losing her way in the morass of dementia. My best friend moved to Arizona. I feel the weight of our sorrowing earth–I have a devotion to nature–and of the slouching and redeeming humanity that inhabits it. We are full of our failures and long for wholeness and peace. And I keep striving. I know I am not alone.
So, I am not giving in to any lingering melancholy much less despair now. I have made it this far. I hope to make it at least a bit farther. I am powered by the regenerative essence of life, the leaps of joy in living–if also challenged. I am inspired and invigorated by the peculiar mysteries of love; gifts of encounters with other people; and surprising illuminations of God that I experience in everyday moments. In short, I am grateful, yes. I say so each morning and night. Praying and working to be present and to learn from others and remain aware of a multitude of wonders is edemic to my path.
What is at the root of your creative blogging journey? How do you keep moving forward amid strain of troubles? Where lives your gratitude?
We keep at it, don’t we, and what we find may instruct or thrill us. As one more blogger and writer, I do feel privileged. How auspicious an experience to offer our words, images and more. It is an opportunity to practice what I care about doing without judgement or pressures, and it brings such happiness.
I’ll remain here, then, at least for the time being.
(Above photos: 2017 at Lloyd Center Mall rink; granddaughter, Avery, and me; just me; daughter, Naomi, and me being silly)
I read yesterday that Lloyd Center Mall–covering 23 acres and at one time the largest shopping center anywhere–is closing. And may be torn down. Built in 1960, it was a whole new shopping experience; thousands attended the ribbon cutting as the then-Governor did the honors. Big stores moved in, restaurants. A food court was built later that overlooked the fun below. A huge draw was the indoor ice skating rink. Originally an open air mall, it was beautifully glass-roofed when I moved to Portland in 1993. Generations have long enjoyed its convenience and offerings, but over the years there has been a downturn in numbers of shoppers, as new malls have sprung up and small businesses have continued to flourish the last 30 years. With the devastation and restrictions brought by the pandemic, it appears to have finally come to a full stop and must be sold or demolished.
It’s a sad moment as I reflect upon this older local hub of activities. Many events took place there over the decades, from Clydesdale horses to gardening/flower shows to fashion shows to wildly popular midnight sales. I wonder what else went on that I missed those years before.
The mall was a primary stop for my family when we lived in NE Portland. We walked over (a few blocks from our old neighborhood) for a quick pick up of a necessary item, or to find a gift for a special occasion. Or we stopped by a couple of hours to just browse on a rainy day, grabbing a bite to eat and watching skaters below in the center of it all. Just taking a curious appraisal of milling crowds can be entertaining. And when we met family, say at Barnes and Noble Bookstore, for coffee, a scone and a new book, that was pleasant, too. Everywhere there was chatter, activity. Youthful friends often met their cohorts there to shop or while away time or attend a movie in the indoor movie theaters. It was a safe place for even young teens to be on their own, overall, though in the last years there was some illegal activity in and about the mall. And that likely contributed to its demise. A nearby corner park also became known for drug activity.
But when I had time, I certainly spent a fair share of money there. Sometimes it was a small and distracting getaway between work and other life business, or to distract myself if disgruntled or confounded by some issue. I’d get exercise walking there; I could meander a bit, get a drink, a treat. But mainly I was glad to have last minute shopping options so handy.
And then there was the ice rink. I have long been an ice skater seeking good ice.
Just thinking of that oval of slick stuff no longer existing there brings a small lump to my throat. For where else will I –and so many other ice lovers–end up with skates in hand? I can think of no place, at all. There once was a bigger ice rink at a newer mall (Tonya Harding used to practice there), but that rink closed due to less interest. Lloyd Mall rink was popular with area residents and those who came from a distance to enjoy family recreation–or just singular skating. There were classes for all ages, different kinds of skating events. It met a demand for our greater community. What pleasure to witness fathers or mothers and their children, older and younger friends with linked arms, kids zooming about on their own, littler ones teetering, trying to regain balance amid forward motion. You saw happiness out there. I felt my own. And there were hard falls, sliding off course, then skating on. There are always failed moments, mine included as I executed a barest half of a waltz jump that was easy at 30, but not so much at 60. But I tried to improve as well as just speed skate some, weaving betwen others, backwards and forwards. It got my heart thumping hard and that was good– my body sang.
Now that the mall is closing, I realize I should have skated there more. I was 43 when I moved to my first Oregon home and I quickly seized the opportunity to try the rink. And was delighted despite it being smallish. Yet I might have skated there only four times a year, to my regret. Between family obligations and long hours at work, it was a lower priority to me. When I retired from working in the mental health field, I planned to skate more but instead I wrote more….and saw more family and friends amd explored other interests. I never rekindled the habit I cultivated as a younger person.
Indoor ice skating was a bit odd, in a way. There were no biting, sleety, snowy winds as I raced around the rink. Far less layers of clothing; not even gloves were required. Of course, I’d readily adapted to northern weather vagaries growing up in Michigan. But I learned to skate at a well maintained outdoor rink, took figure skating lessons from early childhood. It was one passion of several I nurtured and though I did well, my daily disciplined study and practice began to fade by my late teens. I had skated for the joy of it as well as for competitive sport– and it was a blast. And a winter activity that was a rejuventator, one which saved me from the weight of despair many times.
Then I went to college, got married and my children were born. It was up to us to find a pond or lake frozen over each winter, which we often did. And what antics there were out there, the family gliding and falling and rushing over the rough ice nature afforded us. My first husband was a decent skater and enjoyed outdoor sports as much as did I. When married a second time we lived for years in Rochester, Michigan. Just two houses down from ours was sprawling Rochester Park with a rushing brook– and a pond. In winter it froze, thick and safe. There was a rustic warming house; we changed into our skates, took breaks to heat up hands and feet and sip cocoa. Every one of five children skated, though some were more enthusiastic than others. Marc was less enthralled but willing to try a bit, then watch and cheer us on. I was full of happiness, helping the children step and push onto ice, then find their own power and glide; to skate backwards; to stand with feet placed just so, then draw in arms quickly to create a spin. Despite the generally poor condition of snow-skimmed (or encrusted) ice–and excited hockey and speed skaters that gouged the surface and interrupted our trajectories–it was an outing always worth our time. The cold left our cheeks reddened, noses dripping and fingers tingling.
I was a skating nut, an outdoors lover way back, and grateful for all of it. And my blades on ice felt special. Thrilling.
So, now I wonder what to do with no rink. Of course I desire to skate even more now that the old standby is closing. And I long to teach the toddler grand-twins how to skate. I suppose I may have taken the rink–and the mall–for granted. Now I’ll have to search for a new ice rink. Hopefully, within an hour’s drive.
Thanksgiving is next week, then… Christmas. I for years looked forward to gawking at gaudy holiday decorations strung about Lloyd Mall, bright reds and greens with gold and silver accents, sometimes huge snowflakes and maybe icicles sparkling in the lights. It was a noisy, crowded, festive place, a spot where we shared energy of a loose community. Where groups merged briefly then separated. There was something for everyone if you looked long enough. I do feel a shopping mall is never the best place to authentically socialize. I am not supporting the idea of anyone becoming a “mall rat.” Though for soem folks this may be a safe place, the pause from a wearying or harsh life, a kind of comfort. Lots of older people could be seen sitting with coffee, eating a cheaper lunch, at the edge of such bustling life yet within the group of humankind.
I came to malls late and never missed them. There were none (other than small and ugly strip malls) in my hometown as a kid. Nonetheless, it is a place that is public, like parks, and available to all (in theory, usually in practice), offering a modicum of shelter and food. And Lloyd Mall was meant to be a people’s mall, and there are trains and buses about the area; it is close to Portland’s city center. The mall had begun to look a bit run down but it was spruced up a few years ago. Yet I had a fondness for that faded luster–it had been well used, enjoyed so long by thousands.
Not that I don’t have other choices for shopping and meet-ups. It’s a big metro area; there are multiple destinations to meet needs. My more local downtown is pretty–overlooks a lake–but small and very high-priced. There are other “downtowns” out my way, streets lined with a mix of shops and other businesses, but it is mostly so suburban. I also live a few minutes from an attractive shopping center designed like a large village square, with good restaurants and other businesses on narrow streets, with lamposts and flowers everywhere. It is a bit chi chi, or tries to be with fancier fittings, higher end stores, But I go, anyway. It suits me well enough for now–until I get more time in Portland’s unique shops, when the pandemic wanes…if and when it does.
This week I noticed a huge Doug fir tree up on the faux village mall corner, decked out in a festive spirit with shiny things. I saw more people shopping, and they looked cheerier than they have for awhile. We all want life to behave more normally, so even if it isn’t yet we pretend it is and seek ordinary but improved experiences, and the bit of lightness we bring to this more superficial activity creates a ripple effect. Who doesn’t love holiday candles? Bought one. Who doesn’t like peppermint mochas? Well, I do. Who wouldn’t want to purchase a wonderful book or ten for their family? I did so.
The pandemic has thus far impacted many businesses. Stores have been shuttered all over that could not make ends meet without daily foot traffic, a steady flow of buying and selling. We need to support small businesses, especially. And keep finding ways to get together, to safely mingle, to exchange greetings and news, to share our love and appreciation. I am counting on more of this to come, even in smaller doses, far fewer people. As far as the old mall goes: the Lloyd Center Mall real estate will be revamped, utilized for mixed residential-business spaces. I suppose we get used to new architecture, the unknowns accompanying redevelopment. At least I do hope I am not in complete shock when I drive by the palce again one day. Until then I will be elsehwere, living beyond the density and action of the big city.
But I’ll also look for another ice skating rink… I so wish for a new place. May it come true so I can glide and spin, skid and play with grandkids, adult kids or alone for years to come. I want to feel the chill air whip my hair as I skate, then come to a spetacular T-stop that discharges snowy spray into bright air.
(Naomi; daughter, Alexandra, behind her niece, Avery; Avery and Grandma/me.)
This is a shot from our vacation In San Diego in 2018, but it seems appropriate for Memorial Day, when we honor our veterans and those slain in far too many wars… Naval Base San Diego is the Pacific Fleet homeport base, comprised of 1600 acres of land and 326 acres of water. It is a massive presence that protects this part of our country and is certainly felt as one gazes at the huge ships and visits a naval cemetery. It makes one long for peace in our conflicted world that much more, even as reality of need of military presence remains.
The city itself is beautiful and we had a wonderful time, photos and descriptions of which I have posted a couple of times.
We are off to our first BBQ with our family in Portland area this afternoon. It is a bit strange and truly wonderful that we can finally share food and talk so much more safely–if still carefully. My grandson is now recovering (in another city) but slowly from Covid-19–it is real, folks, he has been very ill and is grateful to be healing day by day.
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson