Friday’s Poem: Solitary Encounter

It’s what you are thinking that wears you down

plus a dull afternoon that promises to shine

but does not. Yet you push on.

It’s not you who move your feet, they just take you

so it’s round the corners, past silent houses, under

bony arches of trees you want

to call out by name like friends.

Your shoulders sag: trees have no names,

they have no use of them, thriving in community,

and long outlive your sort.

Fine mist veils your eyes, covers your hair

but there must be more– it cannot be otherwise.

You come to this place as often before,

where an angel has life immortal in stone,

so does you no favors. It only waits.

Yet you step inside the mossy wall

to gaze at blind eyes, those ponderous wings

that should lift it upward to heaven.

Such an angel, this small one,

it dreams impossible things; it endures;

it bears the elements; speaks no ill will.

You close your eyes and mind slows,

skin feels rain as silken air, and

your breathing in this time between time is enough.

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Eleven Years/Thanks Giving

Eleven years.

WordPress informed me this week that it has been eleven years since my first blog post. That seems almost absurd. How can that be? I was sixty years old in 2010. And the passing of time has been a rhythmic flow of minutes, hours, days…starts and stops and this life resuming once again. And so, too, the posts on WordPress.

I recall it feeling like a small, entertaining adventure when I first learned the ropes. I jumped in and charged ahead. I learned through trial and error. And soon enjoyed the process. Yet, who would keep toiling away at a blog that long? Some of us just keep our foot on the pedal and go. It becomes a discipline and a habit, a way to also keep writing juices flowing. And the truth is, it hasn’t been very taxing to share the small theater of my life. We bloggers find pleasure and meaning as we put on pages the images that speak to us; stories that snare us; heartbreaks and recoveries that add up; random encounters that puzzle and move us. Blogging is a method of placing our thoughts and feelings into a more coherent perspective–as it is with any sort of writing (or any imaginative) endeavor.

Perhaps it has become one way to journal–whether the content is travelling, photography, hobbies, personal transformation, commentary on society and the world, true passion projects, deepening spiritual experiences, multimedia endeavors, humorous anecdotes. Or a simple tale of life that presses to reveal itself–and so we–I– obey. We create and place it into others’ hands…those often unknown others who are also moving and resting, chuckling or crying out.

Here: take these words and images and perhaps find me there and then find yourself here and there. Reach to the core of the story. The bare elegance of the view. The soundtrack of night as a woman or man flees wakefulness. The spill of light that flushes roots and limbs of the tree. But connect, be less alone. Peek into another way of living and engage mind and senses with no goal besides learning. And risk being open with moments of sharing. It will pull you from yourself even as it expands your knowldege. It has mine.

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.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Blessings to you and yours,

Cynthia

Husband Marc and me, 2010, when I began this blog. A little tension around those smiles, perhaps… We both worked too hard and such long hours back then. Careers that demanded much, but all work asks much!
Now retired for 7 years, still dreaming and doing–I thank Divine Light/Love/God.

Monday’s Meander: A Refuge of Autumnal Beauties

A month ago, the rains fell only sporadically; now it blows in and hammers, drizzles, mists and sweeps over the Pacific Northwest. Winter. This morning there was freezing fog, and when the fog dissipated, the cold remianed strong. But that’s November; it’s our wintry rainy season. So I decided to look back at October and share some last fall scenes. Photos were taken at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, a place we return to 2-3 tmes a year. Riparian forest, lowlands, wetlands: 1800 acres of wonders to explore. The trails are just over 3 miles when all are open–but worth even a shorter walkabout. I hope you enjoy the shots.

We end up at our starting point having enjoyed a couple of hours observing birds and skittering creatures we can’t quite find. And listening to wind sweep over grasses, play in branches and bring to us birdsong. And watching the river flow with its quiet power, smelling fecund earth mand fallne leaves– and walking, walking, walking. It is always a privledge to move about nature’s surprises and designs.

Saturday’s Poem: Concert Hall

This is a place of safety.

I lean toward a concert hall entrance,

into otherworldly glow of chandeliers, heavy

like incandescent fruits hung from a gracious dome.

Luxe carpeted steps lift my feet higher,

leading me through dim passageways that will

ring with wood and brass, string and reed,

and a union of voices. Those that will sing for me.

My voice is silenced as lights fade;

a burgundy curtain, opulent dressing, swings apart,

and the revelation is a great gathering of human beings,

weilding insturments of transportation.

They commune with the conductor as he

choreographs sound;

they unite unfurling notes, make crescendoes of story.

Before long, they ride a ship to exotic parts

and return laden with treasures for the mind, the soul.

For me, for us. I shelter here, all together.

I come and worship humbly.

I pull close music made of breath, of beating blood

and smile, weep into it, meditate with it,

seek heroine and hero in it,

and bring each precise measure to my thirsting self.

A woman fragranced with English oak and

redcurrent, swathed in an indulgent cashmere

still needs a goblet of clean water, a handful of figs,

a conversation that rouses and clarifies

with a language that tells truths.

Sancutary for all.

The music finds and fits me and I, it,

and the leaning forward is not of body

but spirit and I am lifting,

I am alight and the players and I

cross demarcations, are vast and unmapped,

become one.

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: What Now? The Shuttering of a Mall and its Ice Rink

(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.)