Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year...now what?

Kathy Mattea - Give Yourself to Love

Video from Sunsong 23.

At the end of 2009 I experienced a strong urging to be more intentional about, more committed to having a blog. In 2009 I posted 33 times. With this addition, I will have 135 posts for 2010, for which my goal was 10 postings a month. Consistency sometimes challenges me. To know this and to turn it into an asset is like teaching two squirming life-forms with nothing in common to waltz.

Half-way into 2010, an urging from the same source suggested seeking a wider list of blogging writers to read. Chance or fortune led me to a group from which I am learning about poetry. With their help, and the relentless encouragement of my brother, I find occasional poetic phrases to elevate my prose. To do more of that is my wish for 2011.

Writing is a river flowing alongside the town that is me. It is a constant, now more independent, maturing almost on its own, while I show up at my day job of trying to find peace and cajoling it into reliable attendance.

Some - perhaps all - of us are speckled with drawbacks, obvious as the age spots on some of our hands. What an assignment, befriending the shortcomings, spending enough time with them to identify their strengths. I am running a drop-in center for those labeled under-achievers. They are surly and reluctant, while wanting so much to find a place where someone can see past their thorns.

To know and embrace the true self, to do the dance of joy every day without that fatal whiff of disappointment turning the air toxic, I believe in this. It is love.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Something in the air

(Written in the morning, posted quite a bit later...)

Fifteen minutes ago I could have declared a monkey's wedding in Pasadena, for it was raining while the sun was out. I hope they started the festivities right away, for conditions changed again. My former husband, born in South Africa, introduced me to the expression "monkey's wedding" for that specific meteorological condition. I always wonder what they serve at the reception and marvel at guests who can show up on such short notice.

Though our storm is moving from west to east, lower clouds were being blown east to west, flying, really, vaporous and transient as breath on a mirror. We are not often treated to cloud formations which assume shapes and travel quickly. I connect those days with kites, since wind is usually a factor. Putting thoughts of damp, cold, stiff and crazy out of my mind, I savored how much I once enjoyed lying on the lawn as the mottled sky reeled, especially if I'd been twirling before I dropped. I knew twirling made the earth tilt.

Storms and positive/negative ions, the expansion/contraction of cold getting colder, have influence on my brain, the physiological one that is powered by chemicals too frequently out of true and by what blood and oxygen reach it. Rain once brought me calm, which may not be the way of it now. I will not allow today to be the determining example of whether or not that is still so. I wish deep peace was always within reach and that the mind part of my brain could be soothed and quieted with sweet mother words.

What has brought me closer to center in the past two days is laughing, the kind that probably makes the neighbors look at each other and shrug, the loud, explosive bark. The ability of humor, of rich silliness to surprise, is one of my treasures. There is no medication better than funny.

This afternoon it was MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000'S holiday offering, a dubbed Mexican exercise in the surreal called SANTA CLAUS. Last night it was my second viewing of THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX by Wes Anderson, a movie I love so much for everything about it from the way Mr. Fox eats his breakfast to his wild, Andersonesque plots of stealth and theft that I, as Pee-Wee Herman suggests, would happily marry it.



I say sincerely that I think I could become a better version of myself if I watched it every day, committing the dialogue to memory and honoring what feels like too much "different" within me with reverence, not rejection. It is joy undiluted, idea and execution, and I am left weak with gratitude that the gifts of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson, among others, produced this furry love child.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I had compiled a list of reasons for having the blues on December 23. For about 10 minutes they seemed to matter, then their smallness betrayed them.

Imperfection, disappointment, discomfort, uncertainty. Please. Is this the best you can do?

It is just another (what we like to call) Thursday on planet Earth, heading into the unknowability of tomorrow. That it is now less than two days until Christmas lets me try and give additional weight to mood shifts of unknown origin.

If possible, I will find a cure for my amnesia by morning. If I don't find one, I'll pretend I did. I am most unhappy when I forget all the things for which I am grateful, all the ways in which my life is abundant.

Growing older is a gift. Maturing past the point of Christmas magic is more than some are allotted. I am not confused. But I drift off course at times, take a wrong turn and find myself waiting behind the bedroom door with my baby sister, tying my bathrobe sash again and listening for the voice that says, "Okay, kids. Come on out." Merry Christmas Mike, Laurie, Barbara and Russ. I have no cause to be blue.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The price of procrastination


Contrary to my overly optimistic plan, putting on my Christmas hat has not added more hours to my days or more oomph to my hours. I am not even close to where I need to be for the deadlines that stir, like waking dragons, on the near horizon.

Waiting for the organic impulse to make cards, maybe a gift or two, rather than bullying my unwilling self into starting them sooner has resulted in (is anyone surprised?) last-minute anxiety. The very thing I worked so intently to avoid.

There is also a non-Christmas project due in another state by the 27th. I very much want to complete it, in the best fashion, and need to allow myself time to noodle.

All of which is to say that I have missed keeping up with my favorite bloggers, missed being able to give myself the option of commenting on their posts. It feels like an accidental exile, not a happy thing.

I miss checking in to see what you've shared and I will return in a more consistent way...soon. Meanwhile, I'm the one with the pencil or paintbrush, those vertical lines between my eyebrows deepening as I try to turn thought into matter.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Slow dancing

This has little to do with Christmas, except, perhaps that the wish centers of our brains or hearts are hyper-activated. Long-ago desires, met or unmet, take form, fit themselves around us. They move in close. In voices sweet or taunting, they remind us of all the ways in which we felt heard, acknowledged, even spoiled. Or they illuminate gaps in the continuum, whatever might have been the piece that pulled our metaphoric room together. Ever the daydream believer, I think there may be a yearning for which it is not too late. Even the possibility is enough to carry me along.

Since I cannot speak for others, I will say that, through my decades, I have displayed a remarkable capacity for getting it wrong. Misreading the signs, succumbing to brain chemistry that is not all it might be, discounting intuition, hastening forth on too little information, doubting that the good which seems too good to be true might, this once, be so. With grace and good fortune, we survive our mistakes. If we don't survive them intact, we still continue as altered, mutant versions of our once-selves.

There is a dance, one slow dance, that never happened. It is 40 years later, will be later still if it ever becomes real. That a brief and ferociously under-fed romance survives to flare occasionally through dreams and conversations, outlasting the Berlin Wall, marriages, reliable journalism, John Lennon and George Harrison, and youth, is, well, my definition of a miracle. An almost sure candidate for extinction, the resilient creature lives on. Who would not love a beast so stubborn.

Picked for the day we shared a bowl of lentil soup and it was playing in the car, what follows is my choice for the dream-sequence dance. It also has Santo and Johnny overtones that resonate for the teenaged part of my brain. Once I play it here, I can return to my normal life, surrender expectations and be happy that I gave a fantasy some air. It could be enough to keep it breathing on its own for another 25 years.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Henry finds a friend



Henry and his mom continue their visitations at Cedars/Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. The were invited to the hospital's recent Christmas party, which included a blessing of the animals. I imagine that all are blessed on a regular basis by those they encounter. Still, this was intentional and festive.

The new photo of Henry, above, gives a better indication of his regal size. He is a big boy. He is also not known to cozy up to unfamiliar dogs. The cats in his home life consider him one of them.

So it was with great pleasure and considerable surprise that his mom sent me photos and the announcement that Henry had found a friend at the party. His new pal is Toby, also a volunteer visitor and, clearly, about the size of Henry's head.

Picture this pair trotting into your room, feel mirth displace any worry you've been carrying. I haven't heard if they will making calls together but the simple thought of it has brightened my day.

What better than a new friend for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The season of cardboard


Christmas box rubber stamps from Rubbermoon.

Cardboard houses, glittered or sprinkled with bumpy composition snow. Window spaces filled with amber-colored cellophane to simulate the light cast from Christmastime living rooms. These, I believe, are my icons, hold-overs from a 1950s childhood, a few of their swap-meet kin stepping in to replace the lost originals. They've held up surprisingly well. I do love cardboard.

The Christmas of my child heart always begins at the dime store, walking the aisles of creaking wooden floors, seeing myself small enough to call these paper neighborhoods home. In the way that snow globes beckon in others' Christmas reveries, one of these palm-sized, chimneyed cottages set on a branch, next to a bubble light, is a vignette that takes me home.

Image, thanks to oodlesandoodles.typepad.com.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

...whatever...

The third try is IT. Two draft posts (which must be deleted before something awful happens and they somehow appear), just brimming with angst, uncertainty, estrangement, the gloom of my inner Eeyore, doubt and what may be a bit of depression or may just be self-pity, on which I have been laboring for far too long, have not managed to express whatever THIS is and the writing was truly cringe-worthy.

Instead I will share my discovery of the week: it is not possible to hear the voice in my head when I'm singing. To call the voice an inner Eeyore disparages the grey donkey of whom A.A. Milne was clearly fond, for it is not merely glum with a tendency toward pessimism. It has come to spoil the party. I am getting way too old for this.

Wearing a crowd-counter on my waistband might help me keep track of how many times in a day I say, "I don't know." Or I could do those |||| marks with the diagonal that signifies five. In my (not yet operational) wee notebook. The only things that make sense are close-in and would be judged small by other yardsticks. I've decided the only one that matter is mine.

The time of year doesn't help. Since I don't know, it may be the problem. Almost nothing feels right. We have people who love us, and we love them back, people who help us out of tight spots and add sugar to the tea, who listen and speak favor over us and our creative output. We each have a substantial friend in the other and harmony in our small family. Life is good. What I don't understand is why my heart aches so.

If this is old, old business, come to call on its way out of my life, the timing is grotesque. It feels like an ancient sorrow, maybe some bizarre confluence of sorrowful events arriving en masse. We know from Dickens what hell Christmas can raise. Last night I dreamed of a high school reunion. One of the women I encountered had wanted to be an actress, but never reached that goal. I realized that I HAD gotten my wish, to be a writer, later an artist; the pond in which I've been splashing for 41 years has supported me, has given me more than I asked for. Amazingly, it continues to widen. Good thing. I displace more water than I used to.

My understanding of the process tells me that sometimes we are asked to be with sorrow, patiently, no fidgeting or eye-rolling, no clock-watching. We are asked to hear what it has to say, to feel what it has carried in its finely-woven basket, from which we would rather flee but know if we dodge it now, it will only return.

Three nights ago I was trying to dispose of a ill-intentioned life form, identifiable in the dream but not known on this side, at least not to me. It was very strong, mottled or marbled shades of red and cream, the diameter and depth of a stack of a couple dozen tortillas, roundish and thicker in the middle, then tapered around the edges. Its head and tail were indistinguishable, until the head muscled around and tried to bite me. I was set to flush it but was advised that it had to be cut in half, lengthwise, or it would clog the plumbing and show up again. It was fully engaged in whatever its task was, trying hard not to be caught, trying harder to bite - and poison - me and I was not going to let that happen.

If recent dreams were not so vivid and if I hadn't awakened with clear memory of them, I would not assume they brought messages. And what I interpret is, realizing the information is not new but seemed to bear repeating: (a) this is no cakewalk, (b) sad and bewildered are not permanent states, (c) trap nasty creatures under a sturdy bucket and ask questions later, (d) be fully who and how and where you are. It's the only way to get to whatever great thing is about to appear.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We are such stuff...

Some of us excel at abstract thought, formulating theories and insights, seeing connections. Others have an affinity for gathering and retaining information. Too few stand firmly in both fields, windbreaks against ignorance and misinformation. My brother is one of those.

He has borne the over-watering of my admiration with good humor. December 8 is his birthday, noted last year as well, and he appeared on August 20 as one of the smart men in the post ANYTHING-CAN-HAPPEN-THURSDAY.

2010 has not been an easy year for him. An anticipated sabbatical became the venue for battles unscheduled and further health challenges followed. Throughout, he allowed the experiences to be his guides, those teachers that appear when the student is ready, which is to say what we survive makes us either stronger or stranger.

His capacity for interpreting facts and locating their proper context leaves me wide-eyed and gaping, pondering the unpredictable routes down which our DNA leads us. Hidden in the immigrant roots of our family tree is at least one other mind as balanced and far-ranging. I don't think it was Uncle Grover.

What a soup we are, setting forth with the handful of coins tossed in our direction, Jacks in the Beanstalk looking to make our best bargain with what we've been given. We can only work with what is, the hope being that we squeeze every possible mile out of this one fill-up.

Happy Birthday, Mike. You continue to take the old Ford wagon onto byways we never imagined. I will not be surprised when your goggled self appears from the future to report you have mastered time and space.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

23 zeros and counting

The new profile picture is another rubber stamp design, this a child/not-child dressed as a star for the (as they now call them) holiday program.

The bringing and holding of light speaks to me, not only because we Northern Hemishpherians are moving swiftly toward the shortest day of the year. With light we find our way in the dark, actual, physical dark and that of a more mythic, metaphoric composition.

Illumination, by any of its definitions, involves giving life and light to that which it touches. Dispeller of shadows, revealer of what has been hidden from view, teller of secrets, unmasker, foe of ignorance, befriender of the lost. To be its bearer is to carry wisdom and healing and hope. To be its source is to be a star.

Within the past week, scientists announced that the number of identifiable stars in the known universe is much greater than previously thought. While the numbers are really guesses, it is estimated that there are nearly 100 sextillion stars, a one followed by 23 zeros. Makes a mere gazillion seem paltry.

By virtue of our designation as humans, we possess the extreme potential of being sources of light, not by the same, scientific definition as burning suns, but also not that different. We are often estranged from our own miraculous properties, in the dark, so to speak, about who we are, what we bring, how we are catalysts for change and enlightenment within ourselves and others. We of the Woodstock generation didn't have it wrong. We ARE stardust. It was maintaining that state over decades of spiritual and political candle-snuffers that proved difficult.

We navigate by the stars, their reliable, fixed positions in the heavens leading us home. Wearing your own star suit, holding still while your beams lend guidance, you may wish to send out a press release, updating the astronomers' statistics. Please change that number to 100 sextillion and one.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sleep

Sleep rolled in very late last night. Of course, I had to wait up. Thoughtless. We may need to have the talk with words like curfew and responsibility.

My good fortune was that I could go back to sleep after I took care of early morning tasks. I read somewhere yesterday, I think a catalog of self-improvement CDs, that one night of insufficient sleep is, pfft, nothing, really. They insisted the human body would somehow take up the slack, be focused, purposeful, energetic. To which I say, some other human body.

Several of my friends have experienced years of insomnia, one of the most debilitating states, and without the luxury of sleeping in to catch up. I feel marginally crazed if I am two hours short.

I am conscious, it may be Thanksgiving's influence, of taking very little for granted right now, watching when my mind seeks its little worry blanket with the picked-at binding and shocking holes where the wool has been fretted through.

What a wonder, night after night, that restorative draught and the dreams it guides us through. A gift of no slight proportion. Be welcome, know your value. Please call if circumstances delay you. I'll be working the crossword puzzle.