A Quest

The simple task of finding my college transcripts became an overwhelming quest. One of the gifts of my life is that I have an entire writing room for myself. It is also my curse. Seven very full bookcases line the walls; a portable file stand sits beside my desk; it, too, is full; two folding tables sit in front of the portable file stand, and creep across the edge of one bookcase; both are stacked with books and papers, mostly the research I’ll need to do if I ever get around to writing the Kansas Chronicles and the notebooks and files for the Mexico book if I can ever get around to writing it; a glass-topped table sits beside my matching metal and glass-topped desk, where I have the laptop and a lamp and a microphone for the times when I teach online classes, and is covered in Post-it notes, a dish with paper clips, a flashlight (and you ask why I need a flashlight if I have a lamp on my desk? good question); other piles of papers relating to who knows what, miscellaneous mostly, sit under and in front of the desk lamp.

I have too many saved words.

I found one of my college transcripts, but not the other. Why couldn’t I have stored them together? One wonders.

One of the books on the folding tables of Kansas research is named It Happened Here. Does it ever. Nominally, the very thick book is a history of Marshall County, with photos, by a woman who was, no doubt, as obsessed as I am. Marshall County is where the farm lives.

Speaking of which, the farm that is, I still need to find someone with a bobcat and a tree cutter in the front to go over the tallgrass and cut out volunteer trees so we can burn the prairie in the spring or I’ll lose the contract for conservation the farm has been in for the past forty years. Oh, yes, and do farm taxes before my sister, who lives on Maui, writes and says she is ready to take their taxes to an accountant and needs her copy of the farm taxes. Now.

I have at least six professions, if you count farm manager, which I count because it requires attention and all our widespread family is somewhere else. Along with the portable files here in the writing room, there are four file drawers in two cabinets in the “office” our name for what would be in a normal family, the baby’s room. We do not have a baby, we have file cabinets, which hold up a plywood desk top which I first sanded and varnished and set upon said file cabinets when first I moved to Santa Fe in 1992. And bookcases. There’s two in there, too.

Is it any wonder I write memoir?

I still don’t know where my graduate school transcripts are; I’ve thrown out some papers, thankfully, and tomorrow I will call St. John’s and ask them to send me a copy. You see, I miss teaching, and for some degenerate reason, I’ve decided to apply to UMKC as an adjunct in the Arts and Science department, a job whose requirement is that the applicants have some background in international peoples and countries, which I do. One of the things I do is teach pronunciation, and have, since I lived in Mexico, but if I get off on that story, well….that would require the story of Pepe Lobo (American name Joe Wolf), manager of the travel office where I worked, and who went to Mexico after the revolution when pesos were pure silver as big as…and he’d demonstrate with middle finger and thumb a circle about 2 inches in diameter, and stayed, and who said, one day, “I didn’t hire you for your typing skills; I hired you for your looks.”

But as I said, that’s an entirely other story, the Mexico book, which God willing and the creeks don’t rise, as my farm grandpa used to say, and I don’t die, I will, eventually, write.

And then maybe I can throw away some papers.

The end.

.

A Piece of Memory

Since you’ve no doubt seen me write about my memoir in process, I decided to post this piece I just read, and remembered, learning to trust the journey I seem to always be on, in one way or another. Marion a yoga teacher, and a few months pregnant at this writing. We are at Kalani Honua, a retreat center near Kilauea on Hawaii Island. We both were off work and resting.

Marion and I lay in our beds Saturday morning. Time, that most precious gift of the protogenos gods, given and stretched, wrapped us in glorious freedom. Rain, pocking through the jungle, woke me briefly during the night, but morning wore a sapphire gown ruffled with bird song. The garden below our window glittered green, the wet lava chunks varnished to a high black gloss. Breakfast smells rose from the kitchen: coffee, pancakes, eggs. I pulled a muumuu over my nightshirt and walked downstairs to fill a tray. We ate in the room. If there’s one thing a nomadic life teaches, it’s how to make a comfortable home wherever the stopping happens to be. We sat cross-legged on the bed, my writing table, emptied of notes and Smith Corona, our dining table.

“I wish I could see where all this was heading, this whatever-we’re-doing-here thing,” I said. “You’ll go home to a family and a new baby. I don’t even know a direction.”

“Where do you want to go?” She popped the stem of a banana.

“That’s just it. If I knew where I wanted to go, I’d be there. It doesn’t appear I’m staying in Hawaii. I want to. It feels like home. But I don’t think it is. My dreams were showing me… maybe places. Maybe people. But I haven’t dreamed lately.”

She peeled the banana skin and tossed it onto the tray; a soft ripe smell hung in the air.  “What kind of dreams?”

I picked up the discarded peel, stalling for time, unsure how much to reveal. “Did you know banana trees talk? I lived above a banana plantation once, up on a mountain-side. Well, visited. On St. Lucia. We lived there one winter between semesters, one of those happy times. I’d sit on the patio to watch the sun come over the mountains and listen to the banana trees talk. I told you about Bill.” Marion nodded.

“Is that what you’re dreaming about?”

“No. I’m not dreaming about Bill. Or St. Lucia.” Marion looked at me. I looked down, tossed the banana peel onto the plate. “Things I’m running from like scary men and monsters; things I’m walking toward, a home in various stages of construction, lots of those; churches. Mom was in some of them—the dreams, not the churches. I’m entering the churches. I was dreaming of a man, brownish-hair, sorta my size, for several months.” I shrugged. “He’s usually in the house dreams. Sometimes there’s white all around him. He’s rescued me a few times. Not lately, but I’m not having monster or chase dreams anymore, so maybe I don’t need rescuing. Now I’m just a crazy lady in the jungle minus a spirit lover.” Marion smiled at my half-hearted attempt at humor but didn’t shift her gaze. Her eyes pinned me like a moth in a display case. “The other night, I woke and my arms were above my head, like this.” I lifted my arms, head back. “I was praying. That’s what I mean when I said I wish I could see where this was heading. What am I supposed to be doing? Or going, as the case may be.”

My own voice surprised me. It wasn’t tough or strong or questioning. Only quiet.

Marion smiled that slow, wise smile she wore during yoga. “Maybe we have to give up measuring by any yardstick or any road or any doing. Maybe we have to accept. The greatest power lies in accepting. Accept the gifts and the challenges. Give up judging our lives in order to stop judging others.” She broke off a piece of banana and handed it to me. “Not knowing is probably the biggest gift of all. If you were sure what was coming, maybe you’d think too hard and decide not to do it.” She laughed. “Look around you—friends, smiling faces, peace. People who love you. What’s so wrong with that?”

I blinked. “Bhante Kamalasiri said that. He was my teacher in D.C.—a Buddhist teacher. I loved his name. Bhante Kamalasiri.” The syllables’ sweetness rolled off my tongue. “From Sri Lanka. He barely came up to my shoulder. About twenty minutes into sitting meditation when our arms and legs were aching, he’d say, ‘Lift the corners of your mouth.’ And we all did…at least I did, I expect everyone did…and we’d smile.

“One day, I asked to talk to him…a bunch of stuff happening in my life; I was worried about my son. Bhante fixed tea and we sat in the library. He listened patiently to my litany of worries. When I ran down, he said, ‘But Janet. You are with a friend. You have a warm cup of tea in your hands. What is so very wrong right now?’”

Marion laughed suddenly and rocked, arms wrapped below her stomach. “That… is…so… monk-like….” She stopped, inhaling as deep a breath as she could. “They say the best things. He’s right, you know.”

Yeah. I knew.

.

A New Year Dawns

Each day, I receive a post from Richard Rohr at the Center for Meditation and Contemplation. Rohr is a Franciscan monk for those of you not familiar with the name. In today’s post, he wrote about change, an apt post for this ending/turning time of the year.

“Exponential change creates exponential fear along with exponential hope. Massive transformation creates the double-edged cultural sword of decline and renewal. Exponential change ends those things that people once assumed and trusted to be true. At the same time, upheaval opens new pathways to the future. Change is about endings and beginnings and the necessary interrelationship between the two.”

While I stay abreast of the news and know what’s going on, I choose not to live in fear. It’s not effective. What I do live in is the reality of change. 

My previous post was on the Solstice. For the three days following the Solstice, the Sun stands still in the sky, and on the 25th it begins its movement north again. That change has been going on so long, we can’t even count the years except for approximations. The Sun returns. Every year.

And every few decades or centuries, earth’s civilizations go through a massive change. And after a time of turmoil, the civilizations renew and another epoc is born which would not have come about had there not been the preceding upheaval.  In other words, change fulfills “the necessary interrelationship between the two.”

Now we are coming to the end of another calendar year and about the begin anew. We’ll make resolutions, I suppose, because that’s the habit, and most of them will be broken. Perhaps that’s because in making resolutions, we force change rather than allow it to make its own time in the same way forcing corrections in the Julian calendar made it accommodate human inconsistency. The Hebrew calendar, on the other hand, seems more logical (and more difficult) in its correlation with lunisolar movements.

I tend to watch the sun and moon progressions. But we live in a world defined by numbers, and so, in this darkening evening outside my window, in a year winding to its end, I wish you an interesting 2018.

By happenstance, the numbers in 2018 add up to 11, and in the esoteric language (I am nothing if not esoteric-led) the number 11 is one of the Master Numbers, meaning it cannot be reduced further.

“In Numerology 11 is the most intuitive of all numbers. It represents illumination; a channel to the subconscious; insight without rational thought; and sensitivity, nervous energy, shyness, and impracticality. It is a dreamer.”

And so, in this new year dawning, I wish you pleasant dreaming. Be bold in your dreams; be patient; change and hope; and trust the journey.

J.

**photo by Jerry Stump

 

The Rebirth of Light

It’s Solstice. We have candles burning. I’ve finished with the holiday baking and sending packages and holiday greetings. It’s time, now, to be quiet, letting go of planning, and enter being.

Solstice is an ancient holy day, long before organized religions, and often celebrated some deity who was born shortly after the Solstice. From out of the darkness, light was born from a Great Mother. The birth most of us are familiar with is that of Jesus, but for an interesting list, look here.

But the mother I think most about at this time of year is my own. I can see her, standing at the west window of the farm house, looking at the lilac bush, devoid of leaves, only scraggly branches, but it gave her a measuring rod.

In the few days leading up to the Solstice, Mother would go to the window and mark where the sun was through the branches. Each day, she would go at the same time, late in the afternoon, and check the Sun’s placement. As Solstice, she would stand longer at the window, because she knew the Sun would sit there for three days. She didn’t say anything, she just stood and looked. And on the third day, when the Sun began inching itself up again through the branches, she would smile and sigh.

It make me think, in my young years, it was because of my mother’s vigilance that the Sun returned.

It’s always a chance, a time for setting intentions for a new cycle, for a re-birthing into the light of our own lives.

So I wish you a happy and holy/wholly Solstice return of light. May your life and work be filled with the richness and peace that can be birthed for each of us, from darkness, and sometimes hopelessness, to hope.

Peace be with you. Peace be with us all. When we can live in hope and peace, when we offer that to all we meet, the light returns.

 

The Multiplicity of Pilgrimages

And I also do believe that we have this possibility of doing a pilgrimage every single day. Because a pilgrimage implies in meeting different people, in talking to strangers, in paying attention to the omens, and basically being open to life. And we leave our home to go to work, to go to school, and we have every single day this possibility, this chance of discovering something new. So the pilgrimage is not for the privileged one who can go to Spain, and to France, and walk this 500 miles, but to people who are open to life. A pilgrimage, at the end of the day, is basically get rid of things that you are used to and try something new.       Paul Coehlo

A friend turned me on to a podcast interview with Coehlo. Too late to listen, I was able to read the transcript.

I’ve been on a pilgrimage to clean the house, well, the upstairs. Basically, that was my try something new part. My husband cleaned the downstairs a few days ago. He got the kitchen, me the bathrooms and the office and the writing room. He managed the work in one day; I’m on day two with the writing room still to go.

I could whine a little, say all the stuff on shelves and layers of saved pieces of paper on the desk and the bookcases were harder than the kitchen where things all have their place, but I won’t.

In many ways, cleaning the upstairs is a sort of pilgrimage. I cleaned windows and floors, washed and put away the extra fleece blanket I keep on my side of the bed for cold nights, hand washed the rabbit wool socks and retired them for the season.

While we’ve had a lot of rain and chilly days, the sun is now out and growing warm. As I cleaned the little office window, I saw the purple iris are blooming in the back garden. The purple iris are often a topic in my blog posts. There’s one here, and another here, but if you simply put iris in my blog’s search box, there’s several. Seeing them reminds me of the pilgrimage involved in going home.

The office shelves are full of photos. Some of my husband and me, and that takes me on a journey in time, remembering when that photo was taken; another I took of my sister when I lived in Hawaii. There’s a little blue Chinese teapot with gold dragons my son gave me one Christmas, and a small silver kaleidoscope he gave me another year. And books, mercy are there books.

On the top shelf are the art books from when I was going to be a sculptor, forty years ago. The History of Art. That’s a big one. Downstairs, I still have a bust I sculpted from clay, made a cast of, and poured in molten something or another. It’s not metal, but it is heavy. I call her my Bedouin Woman.

The office also holds Cliff’s pilgrimages. One corner shelf, defying easy dusting, is filled on one level with hockey pucks, including one signed by Patrick Roy, my favorite goalie, one year, years ago, when we were in Denver. Another shelf is full of baseballs from various stadiums where he’s watched games.

A spring-cleaned room is a destination one can rejoice in. Yes, yes, I still have the writing room, which, if you could see it, is a little scary. Talk about pieces of paper and books! I am not a tidy writer.

Four floor to ceiling bookcases, filled, mind you, cover one wall and wrap around one corner. Another corner holds a antique built in corner shelf with frilly cut sides (it came with the house) and is filled, mostly, with stones and tiny collections from the places I’ve traveled. Another corner shelf, matching with frilly cut sides, is filled with books and one ceramic lady whose wide skirt is open at the sides for flowers. I painted it, once, so long ago I don’t know when except childhood, and there’s layers of papers and old manuscripts.

I have left this writing room for last. It will feel like 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela by the time I’ve finished, and I will surely feel virtuous.

.

 

.