A River –and it runs through and clear

Every once in a while, I have to spend some time with my laptop on my lap catching up on Facebook. I do it because if I don’t, I miss family news or I miss news from one of my “Likes.” For example, I like “Finishing Line Press” and they put a note up about Persimmon, a journal for women over 60. I always forget about Persimmon. As in forget to submit. I forget a lot of things, actually, maybe because my hard drive is full and there’s just too much to remember. And maybe because I’m over 60.
Anyway, in cleaning up my desk top and files and Facebook, I clicked on a link, one of the many links across the top of the Internet Explorer desktop (which doubles as my memory), wondering, okay, what is this. What did I save now? The link was to Peaceful Rivers–for the Journey and every time I remember to click on it, I smile. So I’m offering you the link and the smile and the deep breath, if you, too, are in the midst of straightening up your desktop for the week.
Opening the page, I read:
The work is always inside you.
This knot does not get
by listening to the stories of other people.
The well inside your house
is better water
than the
river that runs through town.
translated by Coleman Barks
from ‘The Big Red Book’ pg. 474

Get Out the Post-Its

Each day, WordPress sends out an email with a writing prompt. On Fridays, they send out photo prompts. You, dear readers and watchers, have seen some of my photos from the prompts. But until today, I hadn’t taken up any of the writing prompts although I had saved several of them to think about.

Today’s, interestingly enough, was “just what I needed” a phrase many of you have said to me after reading one or another of my posts–whatever I said was something you needed to hear. Today’s from WordPress filled that slot for me.

The prompt, although perhaps not exactly the way it went out so I won’t use quote marks, said to find a safe place to stop, decide how long you can keep your eyes closed, close your eyes and count, and write about what comes up.

Meditating is something I’ve done a fair amount of although not lately, so I decided, 150, I could do that. I’d never counted during meditation before but I did; and an interesting outcome of that was my mind had something to do. I’m a counter. I count when I’m kneading bread; I count when I’m swimming or exercising; I count when I’m walking. I count. That’s what I do.

Somewhere around 100, my mind went to sets of fours–four slow counts to breathe in, four slow c0unts to breathe out–and I sort of lost track of the numbers, but what came to me, loud and clear, is how seldom I stop. Just stop.

Much of the time, because there’s so much that needs doing, I’m multi-tasking and moving from one need to another and back again so as not to waste any time. Too many things are constantly clamouring for my attention. I know that’s also true for many others. You, perhaps. In the midst of multi-tasking, I still remember to breathe and drop my shoulders–I’ve had a lot of practice in those habits–but I seldom, as I said, stop.

Years ago, when I practiced changing the chatter in my head, I put post-its all over on which I’d written, “Trust.” And I practiced saying trust over and over until I’d formed new neural pathways in my brain and worry no longer took over my mind.

Stopping is something that needs practice. When Cliff and I married, in part of my vows to him I said, “…when you tell me to stop, I’ll stop.” And everyone there laughed. But I meant it–and sometimes, he does. But it seems that I’m now being told that stopping is something that needs practice in my life.

I guess it’s time to pull out the post-its.


Celebrating Family

Sean and Raven and Bubbles (the floating kind, not the dancer)

Last weekend, we celebrated a family wedding – we, meaning family for the most part, and some of the couple’s friends. A lot of family. And while we weren’t all there, my immediate family had a reunion – immediate, in this case, being four out of six siblings and some of their children.

We always miss the ones who are absent.

But given that we are far-flung, from Texas to Michigan, Oregon and Washington, Hawaii and California, to New Mexico, we did good in gathering to celebrate. And we had a rousing time of it, even while getting an outdoor wedding ready in Seattle rain. The rain, as if understanding the significance of the occasion, stopped for the ceremony.

The trip out was one of those nightmare-in-airplanes stories we’ve all heard. Denver, socked in by six hundred feet of fog (yes, fog!), lives up to its reputation of being a busy airport, and shut down…. well, you know what happens when a busy airport gets shut down on a Friday. Chaos. We ended up flying from Kansas City to Denver to Albuquerque to Denver to Boise, Idaho (yes, Boise), to Seattle and arriving ten hours after we’d been scheduled. Missing, of course, the rehearsal (we, the wedding presiders) and missing much of the rehearsal dinner. And the last to arrive of the several who’d had travel glitches.

But when my husband and I walked into the restaurant, applause broke out. A welcoming. You’re safe now; you’re with family. We’re so glad you’re here. Sit down. Eat. Others had guided the rehearsal and everything was fine.

I know not all families are as ours. But many families are. The groom’s families, both on his mother’s and his father’s side, are like ours. And several of us from both families stayed in the same house with one bathroom – you get to know each other pretty well with ten people and one bathroom. And the best part is, we’d never have know that part of the groom’s family without it. The other best part is that we spent a lot of time blowing bubbles at each other during the reception.

Jeanne and Janet and more bubbles

While wondering what this family thing is all about, the word, “freedom,” came to me. We are free to be who we are and as grumpy or outrageously funny as we need to be and still be accepted. Freedom. The freedom to be safe and the freedom to be accepted at a core level.

I suppose at base, I’m talking tribal here. Members of a tribe might leave, and sometimes they never return, but if they do, they are welcomed – and whoever they bring with them welcomed (at least until the new person does something damaging and then, perhaps, less welcome).

Statistics say the number of multi-generational families living in one home is growing in our country. We own some of those multigenerational families. I say that’s a good thing – good for the elders and good for the young. The middle generation may wonder what in the world they’re doing, but they go off to work so it’s probably all fine.

Take some time this weekend to reconnect with your family. Tell them how important they are. Offer your love and welcome them home. It’s fall in a very contentious year, so we all need to be circling those human wagons and staying safe.



Becoming New

History is not a backdrop to our lives, but an agent, an interactor.

                                                                Trinity Fields, Bradford Morrow

Yesterday at the chiropractor’s office, both my doctor and her office assistant asked me, “What’s going on??” as in why two earthquakes in a parallel line across the U.S. and why a hurricane running up the east coast and why people were making left turns in the middle of streets without watching traffic all on the same day. “Janet’s coming in today, she’ll know,” they’d told each other.

Not that I’m an oracle or something, but they know I watch astrological patterns. I watch them because then I can pay attention to the wider picture and not get caught up in my own personal drama. Sun opposing Neptune, yesterday. It’s a pretty strong electro-magnetic force and signifies both water (hurricane) and fogginess (left-hand turns).  I can get pretty foggy-headed myself, so my task was to call myself back to focus time after time and pay attention to traffic.

And this Sun/Neptune thing just a small part of the larger picture of shifts in the large outer planets (Pluto, Uranus, Saturn) going on – and which will continue to go on – until 2015 or so. In other words, we’re in a game-changing epoch. And in the meantime, people are acting in small, irritating ways because life is, well, irritating, and it’s hard to see the big picture.

The big picture is that we’re moving from the industrial age to ….well, we don’t know to what – the data age – but it doesn’t have a name yet. We are, all of us, players in history.

Isn’t that an interesting thing to think about – how history – world historical moments, interact with our personal lives?

As this transition is happening on the world stage – whether in Libya or Syria or the United States – it’s also happening in our personal lives. We have the opening to transition out of ineffective patterns into something that’s more effective. Or we can hunker down because all the changes are “scary” – history doesn’t much care either way. But by interacting with a period, seeing a new beginning in the world as a time for our personal life to evolve, opens history into personal interaction.

We might be cleaning out the surplus in our lives, we might be changing a hair style or a physical way we’re walking or being in our body. We might be forgiving past hurts. Notice what you’re doing – how you are preparing for a new epoch in your own life.

The last time some of these patterns were around was in the mid-60s (think revolution and war), before that, the mid-30s (think bank crashes and the great depression). The last time the entire pattern was in place was in the mid-6th century. As I said, it’s a game-changer.

Have fun. Play the game. Become someone new.

The Sacred and the Profane

This morning I’ve been reading “A Defense of Ardor” by Adam Zagajewski, a poet and essayist. The word, “ardor” particularly intrigued me, so here’s the definition: 1. great warmth or intensity as of emotion, passion, or desire; strong enthusiasm or devotion, zeal; intense heat, as of fire, from Latin ardor: to burn, glow.

Two other small, interesting pieces from the dictionary: the Indo-European root, as, also means to burn or glow – in other words, ardor has a long and unchanged history; the second interesting piece is there’s only a total of nine entries in the dictionary that begin ard – so if you look up ardor, careful about skimming the page too fast because you’ll miss the ard section; oh, and a third interesting piece is that arduous (demanding great care or effort) immediately follows ardor. Which seems to make a lot of sense if you think about it: ardor takes effort.

But all this wandering around is to say that Zagajewski examines ardor and its opposite irony. “We’re always ‘in between’ and our constant motion always betrays the other side in some way.” In other words, we reach for the heights and we discard that to fall to the bottom; if we’re always in ardor, “lunacy lies in wait” but if we’re always in irony, boredom ensues.

We seem to be in an age of irony, certainly the time we live in is pretty zany. The sacred has been profaned with all the sordid details of church leadership – across all denominations – and the same goes for politics. We’ve pulled the curtain back to reveal no wizard, but a little pudgy man manipulating levers.

I’m with Zagajewski in chosing ardor over irony, not a fan of Jon Stewart or Bill Maher although I know as a progressive, I’m sort of in left field with that one. Not a fan of cutting people down to size but prefer instead to lift to some idealized view that perhaps isn’t any more possible than the irony.

Do we use irony to save ourselves from feeling? From falling into despair? Or do we use it because we feel betrayed by that which we once felt sacred and can no longer believe and wish to punish because we once believed?

Has our age completely denied metaphysical yearnings? Hope, faith, and the greatest of these, love.

I don’t have answers. I’m meandering through the complexities like everyone else, but Zagajewski says it far better than I’ve been able to.

“Perhaps, then, true ardor doesn’t divide; it unifies. And it leads neither to fanaticism n0r to fundamentalism. Perhaps one day ardor will return to our bookstores, our intellects.”