Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Little Fall of Rain

Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel you are beyond the pain.
~St. Bartholomew

Pain is necessary. There is a reason for pain, be it physical, emotional or spiritual pain. Pain is the mother of all, saying, "Hey... slow down a minute and reassess. What's going on here?" There are ways of dealing with pain, of moving through it and around it, but pain requires our attention in a way that no other feeling does. Left ignored, it will cripple us... whether through real injury or self-medication.

Pain itself should not be scary, but the absence of pain should be. Case in point: had John had feeling below his waist, his cancer would have been agonizing at an early stage and likely would have been treatable. There is a similar slow death in people who don't or won't allow themselves to acknowledge emotional pain.

I'm not saying pain is a happy place (though for some twisted people it is, but this isn't that blog!). But bowing to our own frailty helps us grow. When John died I was offered medication to "ease the hurt." I didn't want it. I wanted to know how much I could take. I needed to feel what was there to be felt. I'm thankful that I made that decision, because now I know what I can take, I know what I'm made of. Without allowing myself to feel that agony, if I had given myself over to numbness, I wouldn't have an understanding of my own inner strength. I also know that by comparison, anything else that happens isn't going to hurt nearly as much.

Besides, even on the most painful days, I'm still above ground... and, repeat after me, "Any day above ground is a good day."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Because He Can

Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta: No.
Rose: Good... when you love 'em they drive you crazy because they know they can.

I always swore I wouldn't let myself fall for a blue-eyed man. I grew up in a family full of blue eyes... I thought I'd want something different to stare at. A year ago, I placed an ad in the craigslist personals. I had done it before, mostly using my wit and sarcasm to lure them in. While I'd made a few friends (and met a few certifiable weirdos), I hadn't really met anyone of great significance. So, weary (and wary) of the game, I placed a very simple ad that read, "I'm just looking for someone to hang out with and watch movies. I'll make the popcorn, you bring the beer."

I got a few responses that were decent and even met up with a couple of them. Then, 4 days after I'd placed the ad, I got a response that contained all kinds of spelling and grammatical errors. Normally, I'd pretty much ignore such responses - I'm not a snob, but intelligence was definitely something on my "laundry list" of what I was looking for. Still, this one tugged at me somehow. The guy said he'd just gotten rid of his farm animals, was feeling a little sad, and "just hanging out sounds good."

So, I replied and gave a little information about myself, including a bit about what I'd been through with John and since. He wrote back and said that people like me were rare and "you sound like someone I'd at least like to know." I liked it... it was such a different kind of thing to say. It fit with my no expectations, no demands viewpoint. Then he sent me pictures of himself and I thought, "Egads, the man is stunningly handsome, blue eyes n' all. He'll never go for me." Still, I gave him my phone number and we arranged to meet for drinks.

I was immediately at ease with him. He was laid back, but had fantastic energy, possessed that fine sarcastic wit and wicked humor that always gets my attention, had traveled all over the world and had great stories to tell, and proved in a heartbeat that his spelling ability belied impressive intelligence. I told him about my own travels, about my Hungarian heritage, which got us talking about food. I told him I'd cook him a proper Hungarian meal sometime - little thinking that he'd ever take me up on it. It was a fun evening, but I really didn't think I'd ever see him again.

Then, a few days later I got an email from him that read, "I think tonite you should cook that food." I loved his boldness and his assumption that I'd meant what I said. I wrote back and said, "You got it... come over around 7." I'm convinced that my cooking must have completely dazzled him, because he stayed. And that was the beginning of life with Scott.

It's not perfect, but what is? In a very short year, we've managed to stand by each other through all kinds of life stuff. Neither of us has made great proclamations of undying devotion. See, it's all in the doing... all in the being there... we're just hangin' out. S'the way I like it.

Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
Loretta: Aw, ma, I love him awful.
Rose: Oh, God, that's too bad.

(*ignominious grin*)

Yep. He drives me crazy, because he knows he can.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Great Whole

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I've been feeling rather existential lately... in a third person kind of way. Others think, therefore I am. I've been impressed and touched by those who believe in me as a person, who have faith in my integrity, who see me as someone extraordinary.

It's not a romp through the park with External Validation (which normally makes me sneer anyway), but more a bolstering of my Self in a time of heavy doubt. While I try to be a woman of substance and character, I don't always see past my own self-criticism. Think of it like this... you're looking in the mirror and not noticing that your eyes look great because you're focused on how big your butt looks in those pants.

So others have stepped into the breach and laid some pretty heavy stuff on me... stuff like "Hey, I know who you are and I believe in you." Words that don't just get glibly tossed about (mostly because people usually know that I'm going to give them the look if they start trying to smarm me). But I accept it this time. I need it.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

John Donne had it right. I wouldn't be whole if I was an island. None of us are complete in and of ourselves. We are born of the people who love us and whose spirits imbue our sense of self. We are greater than the stuff we're made of because of those who see it in us - whether we see it ourselves or not.

The whole is greater.... we're just some of the parts it's made of.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

True Nature

Adapt or die is the truth of the day. The question is, how to do it gracefully. Do we thrash against the current? Tread water and wait for calmer waves? Scream for help? Stay calm and hope for a lost chunk of driftwood to cling to? I don't know any more.

Throughout my life, in times of crisis, people have always commented on how calm and sure I seem to be. "Seem" is the operative word. Truth is, quite simply, I've always taken the passive route. I bow to whatever the gods have required of me like some sycophantic char woman, thinking that if I meet what's required, or even possibly more than what's required, I'll be better for it. Is that so wrong? I have to believe that I've learned from every "lesson", and yes, I've grown stronger through every trial. But would I have been just as strong, if not stronger, had I raged instead, or had I come out swinging? And... why all the trials and lessons? What is the bigger picture that I'm just not seeing? Note: I am not asking "why me?" I never would. It's obvious that there is something I need to learn which test I've failed over and over. But what?

So I stare at my river for answers with the idea that to survive the water, one must understand (think like) the water... and contemplate the words of Lao Tzu.
The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
Which flows in places that others disdain,
Where it is in harmony with the Way.

So the sage:
Lives within nature,
Thinks within the deep,
Gives within impartiality,
Speaks within trust,
Governs within order,
Crafts within ability,
Acts within opportunity.

He does not contend, and none contend against him
~Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Enlightenment, whether one is actively seeking it or has actually found it, is not always a happy place. Sometimes it is the fucked path on the journey - a breathless climb complete with fallen trees to scramble over, ankle-twisting boulders, swarming gnats, and pricker bushes. It's also typically a part of the journey that provides little sustenance and water. The idea is that one finds one's way without relying on outside sources. It is what it is. There are no wrong turns.

With a bit of skill and a lot of perseverance, we may just find ourselves in the meadow again... a meadow robed in verdant green and dotted with flowers that are nearly too vibrant to look at... and a river runs through it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In The Current

I have too much in my head, that's why. Sometimes when my head is too full, nothing I do will allow me to empty it. I have no real words for the things that I'm facing. Big things.... like the fact that I'm poised to lose it all. I suppose on some level I'm depressed and yet I still breathe in and out, still function like a "normal" human. I even find myself smiling and laughing at little things. But, underneath those moments is a current of dread.

Even so, somehow... I know who I am. I know I'll face these things and grow through them and beyond them. I know exactly what I'm made of.

I've always been a strong swimmer. I'll make it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Dead Has A-riz

I answered the phone yesterday as an unfamiliar number came up on the caller ID. The man introduced himself and said, "I need to speak with whomever is handling the estate for the late Barbara Black." I chuckled and replied, in the words of Samuel Clemons, "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." It took some convincing to get across that I'm alive and well (and that the guy likely had the wrong Barb). I thought it was funny.

I hope everyone has been having a nice Easter. It's been pouring rain here all day and the river is wild. I spent the afternoon with my neighbors, indulging in the fine meal they provided - ham, scalloped potatoes, cherry sauce, rolls, etc. - and the pleasant company they always lend. Now... I could nap.

It's been a good day for a dead gal.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rockin' Out

Yes, I'm still here. We had a few days of very nice weather and I was kept busy cleaning, reorganizing, wandering and pondering. I have some boulder sized weight on my mind that has turned me fairly introspective. I spend a lot of time staring at the river, and even more at the river rocks.

I find it intriguing that I find solace in the rocks. From the time I was a young child probably up until I was well into my teens, I had recurring nightmares about rock monsters. I probably had the dream at least once a month, sometimes more, and it was always extremely vivid and terrifying.

The dream was always exactly the same. My family was winding down for the evening in my Dad's camper, parked in some bucolic Michigan wilderness place. Suddenly we'd hear loud growling, thudding, and the grinding noise that stone makes when rubbed against itself. We all huddled in horror, petrified as the monsters would get closer to the camper and start to shake it back and forth. Without fail, and against my better judgment, I would turn my head and look out the window. Seeing the sheer size of the monsters and the nihilistic hatred on their craggy faces would always wake me in a fit of dread.

Clearly, these dreams were a signal that I felt something in my life was entirely out of control, even at that young age. So, I do find it interesting that in my currently stressed mode, I would turn to the river rocks for meditation and comfort. Perhaps it's a sign that I've made peace with some of my childhood anxieties, or maybe it's a sign that I no longer perceive my own imagination to be the enemy.

Or, maybe I just need to stare at the damned rocks and chill out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Night & Day

Beautiful. Just B-E-A-Yoooootiful! What a day... following what a night (hey now, minds out of the gutter... I'm talking purely aesthetic loveliness).

Last night I was out on the back deck at around midnight. It was cold, but the sky was crystal clear... dark black velvet, stars everywhere. The moon shown down on the river in a ripple of diamonds, and the rushing hush of the rapids flowing over the boulders... wow. Outstanding.

This morning the sun came up... yes, actually came up! It wasn't just some diffused glow coming from behind cloud cover, but real sunshine. I've been outside almost all day. It got up to about 70, cloudless all day... I could actually watch the snow melt. I was sans jacket when I took the dogs down to the river, and I sat on a big warm rock while they got up to their doggie shenanigans.

Still somehow... Nights and days like these always put John heavy on my mind. He so loved this kind of "beauty day." As I sat on my rock I couldn't help but sigh, "Oh Darlin'... sure wish you were here." I miss the man. It never will matter how I feel about someone else, I just flat out miss him. Right about now, it would be enough to share the glory of the day with a knowing smile.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Going, going.... gone!

The last bit of snow finally melted off my back patio in this afternoon's sun. Sure, there's still plenty in the yard, but it's nice to see my patio again after four and a half months. It was a glorious Spring day here, the first I've seen this year.

That's all I have to say about that.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Tail of Morality

Though I woke up to snow again this morning, it's turned into a glorious, somewhat Spring-like day. I took advantage of the lack of anything landing on my windshield and made a necessary trip into town. It was a rough trip regardless.

About 3/4 of the way down the mountain, I slowed as I saw a beautiful black lab, complete with collar and tag, lying dead by the side of the road. My heart was immediately in my throat. About 15 feet from the dog was a parked truck. A rugged mountainy fellow sat on the bumper, head hanging down, shoulders heaving. I stopped immediately. I walked to him and put my hand on his shoulder I searched for words that could be forced through my own tears. There were none. I simply stood next to him like that for a few minutes.

Finally he wiped his face on his flannel sleeve and managed, "I... it was... shit... he just ran right out... I couldn't... ohgod... I fucking killed someone's dog." My heart completely crumbled to pieces hearing his voice. I can't begin to imagine that anguish. It was difficult enough to see his. I thought of my two best buddies, safe at home behind the fence, probably playing together blissfully unaware of a threatening world. I felt utterly helpless in the face of the guy's despair. I squeezed his shoulder and said something ridiculous like, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I have no words that can comfort something like this. But I'm not going to leave until I know you're as okay as possible." So we sat on his bumper together for a while, not speaking.

He finally wiped at his face again, nodded, gulped hard, and said, "I think I'll be alright now." I offered him an old blanket from my own truck to wrap around the poor creature - he was planning to take it to the address on the tag. We did that and gently lifted the lifeless body into the back of his truck. The man thanked me and we parted with a hug. I never did get his name, nor give him mine.

The whole time my own dogs were on my mind, and the impossible notion that anything like that could ever happen to them. But it could. I try really hard to keep them behind the fence, or keep them leashed, but they're clever Houdini hounds and occasionally they've been able to escape. As fast as they run, even if my eyes are on them, I don't stand a chance of catching them. After today, I will double my vigilance. Count on that.

Please people, please... if you have animals, please be care full with them. While it might seem inhumane to have fences or leashes, it's a necessity. No matter how well behaved or trained your pets are, they are still animals, still prone to wildness and wandering. Please do your best to ensure that they won't get out and wreck someone's day... it'll wreck your day even worse.

Would you let your best friend drive drunk? Let your children play soccer in the middle of the street? Hopefully not. Show your pet the same respect and love. That lab wasn't "just a dog," it was somebody's family... I know it, and my heart is sore for whomever that is.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Auguries of Innocence

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
~William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

John often smiled and said, "You're a trippy chick." He did that because I would see and hear little things, things in nature, things in odd colors or shapes. Things that most people would walk by without a glance stopped me in my tracks (and still do). I'd ponder them, most times with a whimsical mindset. It never was and never is anything tremendous and awe inspiring... just simple things, like maybe a white pebble glistening on blacktop, or a leaf caught in a fence and whipping like a flag in the wind, or the sound of two birds on opposite sides of the street calling to each other, or a bug trudging back and forth as if pacing. Stuff like that. I've always thought it's the artist in me, or the poet, or... hell, I'm just plain weird. I don't care. So I'm a trippy chick. So what.

For me, it's those little things that turn a good life into an extraordinary life, that turn a fine day into a fantastical day, that take what's bad and makes it better. Late last night as I lay in bed, snugged between my two pups, my thoughts turned to this - hmm... let's call it an ability... yes - this ability in me. I'd been contemplating (fretting over) my current feeble financial status, when suddenly the rain started hammering on the slopped metal roof of my loft. "How utterly beautiful," I thought, and heard Michael Crawford singing, "...turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light, and listen to the music of the night..."**

So, to divert myself from what could have been a long, sleepless night spent thinking, thinking, thinking, I made a mental ten point list of the little things, free things, that never fail to "make it better."

1. The scent of cedars
2. Moonlight on the river
3. Pebbles, stones, rocks
4. The sound of one of my dogs sighing in his sleep
5. The crackle of the fire in the woodstove
6. The scent of coffee brewing
7. Birdsong
8. Walking in the rain
9. The sound of the cat purring
10. Seeing genuine smiles

I slept quite well, thank you.

**Andrew Lloyd Webber,Music of the Night

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Myth of Epic Proportion

Facebook has these utterly foolish quizzes that I occasionally take... just to see, y'know? I swallow an extremely large grain of salt along with the results of any of them because I sincerely doubt the intelligence of the people who write them - they're filled with spelling and grammatical error, and the questions leave much to be desired. However, after yesterday's post about the Goddess Athena, I couldn't resist the quiz that popped up today saying, "Which Greek Goddess Are You?"

And the result is, I quote: You are Artemis! The Greek Goddess of the moon and the hunt. Many people don't understand your personality, but you don't care. You're a rebel and you usually fall on the outskirts of society. You're unique and you embrace every aspect of that. Some say you're a wild child, and like Artemis, you know you are!

Well, I could hardly argue with any of that! No wonder the full moon always flips my world and makes me feel the need to be on the prowl. Well, being the research brat I am, I had to do more digging - my days of studying Greek Mythology being 30 years past. Turns out (I knew this once, but had forgotten) that Artemis is also a daughter of Zeus (hey Athena, we're sisters!) and is the twin of Apollo. She is also the goddess of forests and hills (nod...). When she was three years old, she sat on Zeus's lap and asked him to grant her six wishes, one of which was hounds to be her companions (I may have to change my middle name). Of course, she also asked for a lifetime of chastity and that is where we part ways. Artemis is described in several myths as not taking shit from anyone, especially men. In fact, if they challenge her she usually turns them into stags and hunts them down and kills them (or allows the dogs to do the work) - the list includes big names like Adonis and Orion.

I like this goddess. Obviously, I can very much identify with Artemis's love of the wilderness. I can picture her trodding through my woods, stopping by my river to let the hounds drink, becoming angry because some guy says she can't do something because she's a girl, or because he thinks he's better than her. She wanted to be far from society, to roam wherever the moon took her, she wanted space.

I love Greek Mythology, always have. The gods and goddesses fascinate me. I love their power, I love the way they screw with the world, I love their passion, I love their faults. If there were gods I could truly believe in, they'd be the ones... and it's the faults that would get me on my knees. I think if there is a singular thing that keeps me from believing in the type of god that everyone would like me to believe in, it's that I don't (I simply can't) believe that there is such a thing as a perfect being (talk about a myth!). If there is one true god, it's a god that will reveal him or her self and say, "Geez, I'm so sorry. I really screwed up that day... what was I thinking?"

In the meantime, I'm off to trod the snowy woods with my hounds. (Yes, it's snowing again today - Mother Nature's little April Fool's joke.) Should I meet up with Artemis, I will bow low and thank her for the trees and the moon.