Monday, August 31, 2009

A Picture's Worth 1000 Words

Nope, no picture again today. Because I'm posting these from an alternate computer, I don't have access to all my photos and scans. So, we'll just have to stumble around in the dark for the duration.

I've been enjoying the sky lately, both evening and morning. Living here in the valley affords some fantastic views. Late last night I sat out on the deck looking at the stars and searching for satellites. An enormous shooting star went whizzing by... it was beautiful with it's big tail chasing after it.

Mornings have been nothing less than a glorious study in purples, peaches and pinks. Delicious.

Last night, in between my late night and early morning sky watching, I had a strange dream, well... series of dreams last night. For the first time that I can remember, an object tracked through all my dreams. In the first dream I remember Steve gave me a Tupperware container full of bullets and asked me to hang on to them for him. The container showed up in the ten dreams I remember after that, and often I spent the better part of a dream looking for it because I had misplaced it. Significance? Dunno. But it's got me pondering.

After taking a good week or so off of forcibly trying to find a job, I'm back to the ol' employment search. Now that everything else has fallen into place, it's gotta follow track and happen soon, eh?

That's the news for today.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

All's Fair in Love & War

I took a lot of heat for yesterday's post. I guess when I'm feeling feisty it overwhelms some people. I make no apologies. I also got a lot of really great supportive response. Thanks to all of you who reaffirmed your love for this ol' gypsy girl.

Per Timothy's wishes, I am posting his emailed response in it's entirety. With a pal like this in my corner... well... what a rock. Love you so much, T! And thanks for your warm welcome to Steve. Can't wait to read this to him!

Without further ado, here is Timothy's response:

I need your help to post my below comment on your blog site but it won’t let me for whatever reason. I ask that you copy this entire message, this one I’m typing and the message below. I’m asking that you copy all of this email because I want everyone who takes time to read to know it is ME who wrote this and it is ME who feels this way! I would also like the readers to know I look forward to hearing from any and all of them if they need help to understand where I’m coming from through my brother JPJ. I can be reached at or 702-XXX-XXXX

Note from Barb: Sorry T, I just can't bring myself to post your phone number on the internet.).

Thanks Barb!


The rest of you need to work on self, taking time to take others inventory is just a way to hide from your reality! Give it up, get on with living life for today and all of its glory no matter what the outcome. Barb I'm proud that you continue to honor John's wishes and without any doubt in my mind my brother J is why Steve is here with you and all of us who love you as I do. Welcome to my family Steve!

By the way, perhaps all of you need to go back a couple of years ago last May to remember and honor him with his wishes and not your self-centered (doing in the name of) choices. My brother gave me life and my suggestion to you is to see the life he gave you and live it fully today! If you can’t relate, well in the nicest way I say ‘FUCK OFF’ and rain on someone else’s parade today!

Love brother, T

Friday, August 28, 2009

Make Love, Not War

Everything is moved. I'm so done with that! And I'm so happy to be here with Steve.

Several people, friends and family, have expressed concern over my seemingly hummingbird of a love life (as it has appeared lately). All y'all, please... rest assured that I do have a sound mind and that I do know how to use good judgment. Also, for all intents and purposes, my relationship with What's His Face has been over with since the end of May. We remain friendly... friends even. I never deluded myself that our relationship was going to go on forever. We were two people equally reaching out in a time of need and we were there for each other. It worked at the time. It doesn't any more. C'est la vie. I have no regrets.

Sure, I'll admit that I haven't known Steve all that long, that this whole romance has likely set some kind of land speed record, but I know what I know. Really, who out there has the right to set up a timeline? I know better than most just how fragile and short life is. We're all getting older, and we're all heading toward that metaphysical finish line. Why wait? And just what is there to wait for? When it's right it's right. I'm 47, he's 54... I keep thinking, John died when he was 47 and Dad died when he was 54. See where I'm going? It's not that I have a doomsday outlook (however, we already know that the gods are not to be trusted), but who can say how much time Steve and I will get to have together? I will take whatever time I get. All of it. Say you haven't eaten all day and someone lays a glorious banquet in front of you. Do you simply rub your belly and think, "Hmmm. Think I'll wait until I'm actually starving." Doubt it.

Me...? I'm divin' in. Both feet, both hands, full heart, open mind, eyes wide.

And if I'm wrong about all this? Well geez... then I guess for the very first time in my life I'll have to admit that I made a mistake. Oopsie... careful not to slip in my oozing sarcasm. Really, c'mon people. Quit judging. Be happy for me. Or at least stand down. You're making my overly protective pit bulls look like newborn kittens.

Also, as evidenced by some of the "noise" I got (static, y'know?)... I guess it's time for me to reiterate that just because I have found new love does not mean John has ceased to exist for me or that my love for him is in any way diminished. I loved the man, heart and soul and I will always love the man heart and soul. This was his wish for me (and I daresay he probably had a hand in setting it up). We talked about it. He wanted me to find someone who would love me for all I am, and who would give me the kind of love that John felt I deserved. Fuck. John made me promise, made me promise, that I would keep myself open to that. Any idea how painful that conversation was? Still is?! To sit there with the man you love, the man you love who is dying, to look in his eyes and hear him say, "I want you to keep yourself open to love. I want you to have even better than you had with me. I never felt like I gave you enough." Any idea how absolutely fucking painful that is?! I was the one all alone and holding his hand at the end, having been through it all with him. Me. I know exactly what I've been through up until now. I have all but taken a surgical knife to my heart and mind to keep tabs on what runs through both.

So. Don't you dare judge me. Don't you dare presume to know. These are my fucking shoes. They are tattered and all but falling apart from the path I've been on, and it's about damned time I met someone who cares enough to rub my feet.

So. Knock it off. Quit taking swipes at my happiness. It's mine. I get to.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Old Movies & New Releases

John used to have a thing he'd say when he came across an old letter or a picture or something that reminded him of someone from his past. He'd sigh and say, "Old movies..." We all have them in our heads.

Yesterday when I was going through some boxes (I am not hauling anything I don't need to!), I came across an envelope in John's old stuff. It contained a printout of every email I sent him before we met up "in real life." I glanced at a couple of them, allowed myself to feel the exquisite pain that came with doing so, then sighed and said, "Old movies, Hunny."

This morning after Steve had left for work, I was sitting out on the balcony sipping coffee. Neighbor Danny (aka The Ol' Fishin' Slut - because he fishes every day) looked up at me and said, "Mornin' Barb! What's up for today?" I said, "Heya, Slut!" and told him that I was going up to the cabin to finish packing the last few things and start on the clean-up process. He said he hated to move more than anything else. I said, "Me too! I told Steve that if he changes his mind he's stuck with my shit! I'll just leave." Danny replied, "He changes his mind and I'll whap him upside the head with a 2x4! I've never seen the man happier and we need to keep him that way." I grinned, "That's my intention." The Slut just winked and with a wave, hopped in his truck and headed out to harass the fish.

I wonder, when I look back on this time in my life in a couple of years, what will bring that wistful, whimsical look to my face? What old movie is being made just now? Last night, half in tears, I said to Steve, "Where the hell did you come from? You just blew into the woods like a warm breeze from the valley, swept me off my feet, and... you were right there, right exactly when I needed you most... and... I just don't know what I would ever do without you."
Steve said, "When the glass is half full, does it matter?"

No, Baby. No it doesn't.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peace Work

I had a good day yesterday. In fact, I would classify it as a nearly great day. Sure, it was spent packing and hauling... but here's why it was so good... He Who Must Not Be Named came to help me pack and to haul some of his stuff. I had some trepidation at first, but not a lot. I mean, a person can only have power over you if you allow it, right? Of course right.

However, it went really, really well. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I spent the day with the guy I first met almost a year and a half ago... a guy who is charming, witty, warm, generous and fun to be around. We talked almost the whole time we were packing and had some of the best conversations we've ever had. It felt so good.

Part of why it felt good is because I was able to stop giving myself the old "the fuck was I thinking?!" treatment. I was able to look at him with new eyes and think... there is a good man in there, he's just not the man for me. Makes all the difference. And don't give me any bullshit about "closure." I hate that word. Fuck closure. No book got slammed shut. It's just a new chapter.

Even better, not long after he arrived, Steve called. I told him what was up and there was no question at all, no tone in his voice to suggest that he had anything but trust for me. Wow. That's what love is. When I got home and told him about the day, I kept checking him for signals, for any flash of the eye to suggest mistrust (only because I wanted to assure him if need be), but it just wasn't there. He was happy for me, happy that I'd had such a productive day in so many ways. I probably sound like an old 45 record under a scratchy needle, but the man flat out blows me away. The more I get of him, the more I love him.

The other absolutely fabulous thing about yesterday is that I got to spend time with Nino and Smoke. Himself brought them along and we had a wonderful reunion. It was so very good to get loved up by my pups again, so good to have dog schmoo added to the rest of the grime I was coated in.

When I got home last night, Steve asked, "How's my girl?" I responded, beaming at him beatifically, in a single word, "Peaceful."

For the first time since last Winter, it feels just right to be me. Nah. For the first time in years, it feels friggin' awesome to be me. Let it ride.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Sweeter Side of Bitter

This will be my last post from my river home. As many of you know, I'm moving on. It's not entirely by choice, but it's necessary. Financial constraints require it. I'm sad to leave, and I'll miss my woodland hide-away.

But. (Ain't there always a but with me?!)

The good news is... I'm madly in love with a guy who wants me to live with him. His place isn't so shabby either. It's got a glorious view off of the back deck of the Snohomish valley and a really lovely view of Mt. Pilchuk. I've seen some amazing sunrises this past week. Views aside, I'm so excited to start my new life with Steve. I haven't felt this good and sure about something or someone since I left Maryland over 11 years ago... and I did that without ever having seen John face to face.

All of this has been a whirlwind to say the least, but it beats the snot out of some of the storms I've weathered over the past couple of years. And I don't know when I'll stop being blown away that I've been gifted with this kind of love again. I'm overwhelmed by the power of it. Sounds cheezy, but it's true.

The Universe takes. The Universe gives. Me... I'll stand in the torrent, whatever comes at me. (Like I have any choice.) For now, it's diving into cool, clear water on a Summer day; it's the scent of woodsmoke on a crisp Autumn morning; it's the sun caught on shimmering dunes of Winter snow; it's that first verdant burst of Spring.

And it's all wrapped up in the gift of Steve. My Steve. Steve who looks at me with those amazing faded blue-jean blue eyes, hands in my hair, and says, "how's my girl?" in a way that makes my chest feel like it's going to explode. Steve, who holds me into sleep in such a way that I can still feel his arms around me in the middle of the next day. Steve who knows how to make me laugh until I'm breathless.

You never know what the Universe has in store. You never know what's waiting around the next bend.

The path just is.

Here I go.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't Think... Feel

It was a month ago today that I met Steve. I will never cease to be amazed at how fast life can change, whether for good or for worse. You blink and the scenery is completely different. That fast. More often than not, that blink is only the beginning of everything being different. So goes mi vida loca.

There are big changes in store for me. I won't share them just yet (waiting for the gods in the details). Suffice it to say that I seem to be on the upswing of the Universal Bell Curve once again. Which leads me to think that maybe I passed whatever stupid fucking test I wasn't prepared for, or learned whatever stupid fucking lesson I was supposed to learn over the past few stupid fucking months. If only I felt wiser... stronger... more adept at dealing with... with shit.

As it is, my mind is blown. I'm completely overwhelmed. Yes, yes, yes... there goes Barb overthinking again. Woo. I know. The shock of that happening probably sent you off the chair and to the floor. Still, I just can't get past that feeling of "why is all this good suddenly happening to me?" Can't stop myself listening for the sound of that other shoe hitting the floor. Quelle surprise: I'm wary. And I hate the feeling. Hate that constant "what's the catch" bullshit pinging in my brain like a freekin' back-up alarm on a truck.

It's not that I doubt Steve's feelings for me or his commitment to me. Not at all. It's that I doubt the Universe's benevolence at letting me have that kind of happiness again.

I guess I'll take the words of Neil Diamond to heart: Don't think. Feel. Ain't no big deal. Just make it real, and don't think... feel.

~Don't Think... Feel, by Neil Diamond

Monday, August 17, 2009

It Happens

It's interesting to me... whenever bad things happen in my life, I'm not one to stop and think or say, "Why me?" I don't even question it. But whenever anything good happens in my life, I unfailingly think, and often say, "Why me?" As if I'm undeserving or unworthy. As if being deserving or worthy has anything to do with it. Sometimes bad shit happens. Sometimes good shit happens. Sometimes neutral shit happens.

Still, I'll wish and hope and work for something good and when it comes to fruition I'm always a bit startled. What is that in me? Oh, I know, it's probably a bi-product of my early environment, but I'm old enough now to know better.

It's just friggin' weird.

That's what I'm thinking about today.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

All the Right Reasons

This morning I was just climbing out of a deep cavern of sleep. The light was different. The window was in the wrong position. Ahh. Right. Steve's house, not my cabin. Then I heard it, whispered so softly that I almost doubted my ears. But, it was there just as deft as his touch on my cheek, "Sweetheart. I love you."

Last night he sat on the couch. I sat in front of him on the floor. He ran his fingers through my hair until it brought me to tears. "Heyyyy... what's with the snifflies?" "You make me feel like I'm the most special person in the world. In the words of Alanis, 'I'm not used to liking that.'" "Well, you are. Get used to it."
As so many of you know, when John died my heart wasn't just broken. It was shattered. Shards everywhere. It took me a long time to gather up the pieces and start gluing them back together... all the while doubting the quality of my brand of glue. Somehow, it held together, but I never really tested the strength of the mend.

So here I am now, handing it over for safe keeping. Laying it in hands that I know are gentle and caring and sure. It's a beautiful, terrifying feeling - sort of like standing at the edge of a great canyon. Though I promised John I would find love again, I never expected to find this kind of love... this quality of connection... this depth of emotion. I'm undone.

Some quiet time very soon, I will tell Steve about that night and the promises I made to John. It's only fair that he knows, considering that he's helped me keep at least one of them.


He's in it.

~All the Right Reasons, The Jayhawks

Friday, August 14, 2009

Old Men and the Sea

Today is a rainy, cold day here in the Pacific Northwest. It's just the kind of day I love. The kind of day that makes me turn inward as much as it makes me turn indoors. I have a pot o' coffee standing by, a fire going in the woodstove, scenting the house with the luscious flavor of burning cedar. I've spent much of the day playing with my inks and stamps, and writing. For me, it doesn't get much better than that.

Last night I stood by and listened to a couple of old fishermen (Steve and his neighbor) swapping stories. Stories that were well peppered with sarcasm and epithets. Steve kept surreptitiously checking my face for reaction, and I guarantee he found a grin there every time he did so. Later, when we were alone, he asked, "What's with the grin?!" I explained that listening to the two of them took me back to some of my dad's old yarns and idioms. To say that my dad was irreverent is a vast understatement.

So, between last night and the texture of today, Dad's been heavy on my mind. I wonder who he would have become if he had been able to spend some time in my woods, ply his artistry the ways he really dreamed of, and fished whenever the mood struck.

And, oh... how I wish I could sit back and watch him smoke cigarettes with my man, the sleeves of his flannel-lined canvas jacket rolled up to the elbows (it's how I usually wear my jackets too... funny), swap stories, and listen to his fantastic laugh. He had a laugh that drew people in, a laugh like a deep, rich cup of coffee. How I wish I could sit on a rock and watch him cast a line into the river. How I wish I could watch the pinkie finger of his right hand splay out against the paper as he sketches my favorite tree. I can almost hear him as he hands over his mug for a refill, "Purdy little place you got here, Barboo."

And I would smile through tears... just as I am now.

Oh. How I miss him. I miss him, I miss him, I miss him...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Building Bridges

The construction company is finally putting in the big pieces on the bridge across "my" river. Until now it's been months of tearing down the old abutments, digging, filling, regrading, building supports. Lots of noise, little to look at. Yesterday I watched from my porch as the big crane swung the side rails into place. It was impressive - especially to watch half of a bridge swinging by within 15 yards of my kitchen window!

Of course, being the ceaselessly philosophical creature I am, I began thinking about figurative bridges. I thought particularly about bridges in my life that have recently both been burned and built. Had my old figurative bridge not been torn down (torn down? it was a freekin' wrecking ball at work!), my new figurative bridge would never have come into being.

Growth comes with cost, sometimes with pain (I recall hearing one of the workers curse when he hammered his thumb last week - I can relate). Sometimes the process seems endless, the toil futile. Then suddenly there's a structure in place - a thing both useful and aesthetically pleasing (with any luck). As it turns out, it takes a team to put something worthy in place. But, you wake up one day to a different view and think, "Hey... look what we built!"

Moral of the story: If the old stuff doesn't work, tear it down and rebuild.

~The Story, Brandi Carlile

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I don't know where I'm going with this, but it's what's in my head. Little do you know... this is how most of my posts begin.

I cooked yesterday. It was drizzly and cool outside and it put me in the mood to be domestic. I made a pork roast with sauerkraut and potatoes, and baked a blueberry pie for dessert. Then I took the whole deal over to my paramour's house (okay, his name is Steve). He was very appreciative. But beyond that, it felt good to cook (not that I haven't cooked for him before, but I'd yet to do the whole meal deal), felt so normal and real.

He almost immediately asked if he could share some of the pie with his neighbor. "Do you mind, Honey?" Are you kidding? You guys know me... I find stuff like that endearing, especially that he asked before I'd had a chance to suggest it (and I was going to). Said neighbor seemed fairly dazzled by the whole prospect. I felt doubly good about having spent the afternoon crafting pastry.

We had dinner. We curled up together and watched something on the Discovery Channel. It was the kind of evening that I love. I'm no fool (not completely, anyway). I know the bloom is new and pretty and intoxicating. I also know what we're two strong-willed individuals and there's likely to be some kind of thorny clash over something at some point. That's life. That's love. I'll take it all.

As I sat there, head leaned on his chest and listening to his heartbeat, feeling his fingertips dance along my arm, I found myself thinking about the relationship in terms of a bottle of good wine: Heady, yet uncomplicated... rich terroir (earthiness), piquant overtones with smooth, glowing undertones... pairs well with blueberry-flavored kisses.

Y'know? It's really pretty up here in the clouds. Think I'll stay for a spell.

Monday, August 10, 2009

In Spite of Ourselves

Oh boy. Oh wow. Oh frabjous day.

I have a new man in my life. He hacked through the briars, vaulted the fortress walls, and kissed me awake in startling bolt of lightening. I've fallen. Fallen hard. I'm head over heals, crazy in love. There's no point in denying it. No choice even.

Does love ever show up without being a complete surprise? Does it ever knock politely and say, "Do you mind?" I didn't expect this. Didn't see it coming. Got hit hard enough that my shoes were left behind on the pavement somewhere. At the outset I thought, "Well, let's just have some fun already and see where it goes." Foolish Gypsy... tough chick, hiding out in the woods, all independent and bristly, thinking no one will ever be able to dent the well constructed armor. Yeah, a real hard-ass. Riiiiight.

He showed up when he said he'd show up (and has been right on the dot every time since), stocked my fridge without me asking, fixed the back door (that probably bothered his sensibilities a whole lot more than mine), fixed the back gate, brought his chainsaw and cut up firewood, and... hell... loved me up like I'm the only woman in the world. He's intelligent, considerate, has a wonderful sense of humor, is completely irreverent about most stuff, calls during the day just to see how I'm doing, commands my respect and admiration without demanding it.

I hung back like a skittish little animal (it's been a long, long time since I was the most important person in anyone's day), barely knowing how to act, much less react. He let me. Took me just the way I am. Everytime I tried to back away, he moved toward me. Moved toward me and put his hands in my hair with such tenderness that I could scarcely breathe.

I am in love. Me, Barb, feisty gypsy descendant of Attila... in love... and scared nearly shitless at the prospect. And excited. I find myself overwhelmed with thoughts of him, distracted, staring at the clock waiting for his day to be done, jumping everytime the phone rings. My poor tattered heart has gone all soft and mushy and girlie. You're probably nodding and saying, "About freekin' time!" Hands in the air, I surrender.

I gave in to it just this morning as I woke and caught him looking at me, his hand on the small of my back. I thought, "You're in it, Barbara Ann." And it feels so right. As we drank coffee together, I pulled up this song for him on We listened, me with a big silly grin on my face. He said, "You're all smiley this morning!" I said, "Shut up. Just listen to the song."

~In Spite Of Ourselves, John Prine and Iris Dement

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted."
~The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King

Any story that starts with a line like that is going to grab my attention. So, I've recently revisited King's story about a young girl who is lost in the Maine woods. I think I last read it about 9 years ago. Of course, the story speaks to me on several levels... that of a lost girl, the woods, the love of baseball, the journey, the path, the wandering off the path and consequences thereof.

It seems that lately I've been drawn to books about people who've had to "tough up" in the woods. No great stretch to wonder why, given where I live and the rather tenuous quality of my existence lately.

I recently read The Woods, by Harlan Coben... a decent murder mystery if you're looking for one. In it, he perfectly stated a truth that I've been in touch with for years now:
"Those who believe that we are anything other than animals are blind. All humans are savages. The ones who are well fed are just lazier. They don't need to kill to get their food. So they dress up and find so-called loftier pursuits that make them believe that they are somehow above it all. Such nonsense. Savages are just hungrier. That was all. You do horrible things to survive. Anyone who believes that they are above that is delusional."
~The Woods, Harlan Coben

I've had plenty of time to get in touch with my baser (animal) instincts over the past few months... even years. I know what I'm made of and that if it comes down to it in a fight for survival, I'm capable of anything. Everything. Most of us are with one tremendous difference - the difference comes in being prepared or unprepared for the moment. There's no real way to know which side of the coin you fall on until you're challenged with it.

Ask yourself some questions. Picture worst-case scenarios. Are you taking a stand or are you racing to hide in the shadows? There's no right answer - both options are based upon animal instinct. It's just my belief that it's best to know which one I'd pick if I were up against it. I'm pretty certain that I'm a "stander" rather than a "hider."

Just something to think about. Something I've been thinking about (again)... just some lost in the woods thoughts...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


A friend paid me for some cards I made. She paid with a check. Not having a bank account myself (I do not believe in banks), I went to the institution whereupon the check was drawn. The teller smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I'm afraid there will be a $6.00 charge to cash this check." I exclaimed, "What? Why?! Isn't it drawn on this bank?" "Yes," she explained. "But you don't have an account with us. Would you like to open one?"

Recently a friend's son was pulled over by the police. They proceeded to search his car for drugs and give him a breathalyzer test. He couldn't imagine why he was getting such treatment, so he asked the cop what he'd done. "Nothing," said the cop. "You were driving very carefully and it made us suspicious."

"You're clearly well qualified for the position - you're intelligent and creative. You've got a great attitude and your personality would fit well within the company. But. I can't hire you." "What?! Why not?" "Sadly, you don't fit our required demographic, if you know what I mean."

Warning on a package of bacon: May contain pork and/or pork products.

"I'm sorry, I can't help you with that." "Okay, is there someone there who knows how?" "Oh, I know how. I just can't because it's not in my job description."


Overheard at the ranger station: "Why can't we have a fire at our campsite?" "Because we haven't had significant rain in over two months and the threat of forest fires is very high right now." "Well... it's not like we're going to use wood... we have charcoal!"



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How Kind Of You

I know them well enough now that when they ask how I'm doing, I tell them. So, I relayed my woeful tale of joblessness and financial distress. We went on to other topics. We shared a meal, talked, laughed... the evening wound it's way through dusk and into a starlit, balmy night. Hours passed.

She and I sat on the porch, sharing a smoke in the dark as she talked on the phone with her sister. He came out and handed me some money. "What's this for?" I aked. He said, "This is not a loan. I don't want you to pay me back. This is to help get you through. I don't expect anything in return. When you're back on your feet, do something good." "Oh, you can bet I will!" I replied with tears in my eyes. "I will pay it forward, no question!" He said nothing, just walked back into the house.

His wife held the phone away from her ear and said, "He won't know what that means, 'pay it forward'... he's never seen the movie." I told her that didn't matter to me, I would do it anyway. She went back to the conversation with her sister for a moment, then held the phone away again and asked, "How much did he give you?" Clearly she wasn't in the loop on his decision, but she didn't seem bothered by it either. I told her how much, again choking up. She shook her head and said, "Thirty plus years together and the man still never ceases to amaze me."

Me neither. These are people, both of them, who unfailingly show a true generosity of spirit. They do it with understated humility. They simply care and they show it - their actions speak. Loudly. These are not wealthy people (not by a long shot), but they share whatever they have to share - and not just with me, but with everyone in their lives.

I can hear you now... "Ohhhh, you're lucky to have such nice neighbors!"... or... "How wonderful for you to have met such good people!" True enough, but, no, that's not my point. Why aren't we all striving to be good neighbors? Why is it so damned difficult to ask how someone's day was and to show some actual concern when the answer comes? Why don't we all show such openness and generosity? Is it so hard to say, "Here... you need this? It's yours..."? These are tough times for so many. Would it be so painful to hand someone a spoon and say, "I can't possibly eat all this... you have to help me out..."?

Yes, I'm lucky. I'm utterly, unequivocally fortunate. I have two of the best neighbors on earth... but the true fortune here comes in the way that they are quietly teaching me how to be a good neighbor. They are showing me what being a willing spirit is all about.

It's not what you give... it's how you give it.

Go forth. Do a kindness.

~How Kind Of You, Sir Paul McCartney

Saturday, August 1, 2009

No Retreat, Baby... No Surrender

Stuff's gettin' better. Stuff's gettin' better all the time.
~The Postman

Undaunted is one of my very favorite words. Say it aloud and it sounds just like what it means. It can't be murmured. It has to come out with force. defines it: adjective
1. undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort: undaunted by failure.
2. undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear; intrepid: Although outnumbered, he was undaunted.

This word has been part of my daily meditative litany of affirmation for a couple of months now, but never more so than for the past couple of weeks. Lately, my path has felt fairly treacherous and uncertain. But. I am undaunted. I refuse to give in. I will not give up. Foolhardy, you say? Mayhap so, but who has ever found the magnificent view by turning around and heading back down the path from whence they came?

I'm reminded of a recent trek up to the ice caves on Big Four Mountain. Timothy, Shelli and I wandered up there last week, just a day after I'd bunged my knee pretty good on a river rock. I was sore and limping. It was a hot day, upper 80's. A couple of times they'd ask, "Are you sure you want to do this? Are you okay?" Yes. I was determined. Given my limp, my footing was unsure and I stumbled a couple of times, causing some fairly extreme pain in my knee. Did I curse? You know it! But I kept going.
The Man who with undaunted toils,
sails unknown seas to unknown soils,
with various wonders feasts his Sight:
What stranger wonders does he write?

~Benjamin Franklin

It was worth the pain and effort. Coming over the final crest, we gazed upon a rock strewn field. Just where the rocks gave way to the rise of the mountain, the snow field began. The snow gets undercut by the water flowing down the mountain and creates these spooky, otherworldly, thoroughly impressive ice caves. The wind blowing down across the snow field and through the caves creates a temperature drop that feels akin to standing in a walk-in freezer. It felt fabulous after the hot hike! And the view... ahhh, the view! Well, as I've written in the past, this is where the gods come to play.
Well, we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

~No Surrender, Bruce Springsteen

Undaunted. There's no question that it helps to have friends (comrades) helping along the path. There were a couple of spots that Timothy helped me over by lending a strong arm to cling to. I could say that he's done that over time both literally and figuratively. My constant readers will know what Timothy's friendship means to me and some of what we've been through together. That I've been blessed to witness (and hopefully even help) his own journey is nothing short of amazing to me. Point is, just because you might be an undaunted soul (and I hope you are!), just because you might be intrepid, doesn't mean you don't occasionally need a helping hand. Take hold... the hand is there for a reason.

This one's for you Timothy. No way I'd have made it so gracefully down any path over the past couple of years without you in my life! And I'm so glad you've found someone who sees the beauty in your soul as much as I do... no retreat, baby, no surrender... we are intrepid.

~No Surrender, Bruce Springsteen