Play ball?

Posted by owner on April 23rd, 2014 — in Memories

I’m golfing today – well, let me rephrase that.  I’m going out with three other people who have promised to humor me in my efforts to round out their foursome. Tom, my husband, gets out on the course about three times a month.  Norbert and Jane hit the links a few times a week.  They are good friends and insist that it will be fun and no one will laugh, at least not to my face.

I’ve shaken hands with a golf club a few times in my life.  When I still worked in the business world, a couple of guys I worked with organized an unofficial golf tournament each year.  They begged me to participate, not because of my golfing prowess, but because I held the keys to the marketing storage room.  I’d pull out old golf balls, hats, and any other leftover items for prizes and giveaways. I’d get a clean storage room and they’d walk away with their arms full of free stuff.  It was a match made in heaven, until they’d get me on the golf course.  When it was time to sign up to play, I’d demur, but the guys always cajoled me into it, probably because they wanted to keep their free prizes coming.

Many years later I dated an avid golfer.  Why? I don’t know. He lived on the back nine of a golf course and played every possible day he could. On weekends he’d drag me out to join him. He’d golf and I’d run around the course like a kid. “You’re a natural athlete,” he’d say every time he convinced me to go to the driving range. Once in awhile, I’d wallop the ball but you can only do that so many times before your wrist goes numb.  Those driving ranges are intimidating, too. I’d watch serious people taking serious swings and think to myself, “seriously? It’s only a game.”  

Last week, after a nice dinner at the local Asian BBQ, we drank wine on Norbert and Jane’s back patio which overlooks the Superstition Mountain golf course.  “Let’s get together next week to play.” I’m not sure if it was the beautiful sunset slipping down the mountainside, the peace that comes with a full belly, or the wine molecules coursing through my veins, but suddenly, after years of avoiding fairways and putting greens, I was committed. Sigh.

I’ve never understood the allure of golf. Yes, the courses are pretty with their sweeping expanses of perfect green broken up by water hazards and sand traps. Those little carts are a kick, too. But there are problems besides my lack of stance and swing. The big issue for me is a lack of target. It’s damn hard to figure out exactly where you’re supposed to be aiming your ball. This is America, after all – why not supersize those flags so a person can see them?  Once I do hit the ball (after my usual two or three swings and misses), I lose it in the sun – or the grass – or the rough.  They tell you to keep your eye on the ball but don’t lift your head! Don’t drop your shoulder, keep your arm straight, and don’t break your wrist. I am simply not that coordinated to remember it all without some kind of operating manual.

Its one hour and 45 minutes to tee time and the temperature is already 88 degrees. I showered and dressed in my gray cargo shorts, my new red, sleeveless gauze shirt, and my Ecco walking sandals. I thought I looked cute but Tom took one look at me and said, “Is that what you’re wearing? There’s a dress code, you know.” Golf is not an easy game to play but dressing for it is even more difficult. You need collared shirts, little plaid shorts, and matching golf socks and shoes, none of which I have.  Then there is an assortment of woods, irons, tees, towels, and balls plus a bag to put them in. Again, none of that can be found in my closet. Resigned, I changed to an old blue short sleeved shirt and my black walking shorts but I refused to ditch the sandals. “My feet get too hot, then they get sweaty and then they get stinky!” I wailed. Tom gave me a big hug and said “Everything will be OK.”

One hour and 35 minutes to tee time and the wind is really kicking up out there for which I am grateful.  It gives me the perfect excuse for my soon to be apparent lack of golf skills.  Surprisingly, I am relatively calm about the whole thing. You see, the way I figure it, once everyone sees how horrible I am at this game, they’ll never ask me to play again.

Packing It In

Posted by owner on April 11th, 2014 — in Memories

Although I admire the tenets of Buddhist philosophy, when it comes right down to it, it’s hard to follow especially when it comes to live and let live. When I left Aravaipa Canyon Ranch behind, I thought my battles with four legged critters were over. After all, I traded life on 55 acres for home on a mere 2.5 acres, but discovered it meant the four legged neighbors were only much closer.  Pack rats are the bane of southern Arizona existence.   They thrive and survive in the toughest conditions, chew their way through anything, nest in the most impossible places, and delight in messing with my mind.

My first encounter with a pack rat happened to be at the ranch in Aravaipa.  There was an outdoor shower outside the sliding glass door of my bedroom.  When the heat hits triple digits, it is pure luxury to shower outdoors. You’ve got the blue sky overhead, the trees whispering hello, and the birds singing and winging around you.  One night, my sleep was disrupted by a loud thump. Nocturnal animals were always bumping around at odd hours, so I rolled over and didn’t give it much thought. The next morning, I discovered my brand new bar of soap was missing.  Stupidly, I put out another one. That night, same thing: a loud thump and no soap the next morning. 

Now I’m a natural kind of gal.  I prefer soap that is pure, allergen free, and sweet smelling; in other words, edible.  My bars of soap were made of oatmeal, pure olive oil, and scented with vanilla and lavender. Still, they were soap and I had visions of a toothy critter foaming at the mouth and doubled over with a belly ache.  Wandering around the shower stall, I discovered a squiggly trail, approximately the width of my bar of soap, heading off into the underbrush.  That night I set a Have-A-Heart trap.  This time, around midnight, I heard a metallic clank. The critter was caught: a pack rat.  I relocated him quickly and never left a bar of soap outside in the shower again.

Pack rats are cute little guys with overly large ears, but don’t let that fool you!  They are not nice.  A few days ago, our foreman, Bill, started shouting at our dog, Rusty. “Get him!” he yelled as Rusty tried to paw his way into a narrow space between the carport wall and the storage cabinet. Bill and Rusty had joined forces to corner a pack rat, but the rat had tricks up its proverbial sleeve.   When Rusty tried to scoop out the pack rat, it turned into Spiderman and scampered right up the carport wall, then skittered across and down to the opposite side.  Refusing to admit defeat, Rusty attacked but the pack rat did a perfect imitation of Speedy Gonzales, flying across the drive at warp speed before taking a flying leap right up into the undercarriage of my car.  I shrieked!  Bill laughed. Rusty was befuddled. Immediately I ran for my keys to start up the car and Bill popped the hood.  I even dragged the hose over to flush the varmint out, but Bill held me back, saying that really wasn’t so good for the car’s engine.  That night we caught the pack rat in the Have-A-Heart and took it to an undisclosed location for release.  Bill continued to laugh until, later that day, when he went down to the shop area. When he opened a cabinet door to grab a tool, another pack rat jumped out at him.  Steaming mad, he declared Rat Armageddon! 

Over the course of the next few days, killer rat traps were set throughout 2.5 acres. A total of 9 pack rats met their demise and another 3 were caught and released away from the place.  Since I played no role in setting the traps, my karma should be clear, but it does give me pause.  Sitting on the patio, I enjoy watching the rabbits and quail cavort; cheer on the lizards as they zip about in search of bugs; and even thrill at the sight of a coyote out for a stroll. As the owner of three dogs and a cat, I’m definitely an animal lover, but I have a confession to make. I’m glad the pack rats have been obliterated. I’m ecstatic every time another little fruit fly gets caught in the little trap sitting on the counter.  Any scorpion that crosses my path is instantly marked for death and fire ants are blasted with insecticide.  When it comes to live and let live, I play God and, at times, feel a bit guilty about it.  When folks boast they scoop up the occasional spider in their hands and gently place it outside, I shake my head in wonder. When they urge me to consider that everything has its place, I have to agree, but I simply don’t want that place to by my home. I justify my behavior by claiming the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.   I would not have the pack rats chomping my veggies or car wires. I don’t want an army of fire ants turning my feet to flames. I send mental images to the unwanted critters:  a big picture of my home with a red circle and line through it, but they don’t comply.  Since they refuse to abide by my request, since they feel free to burrow and sting at will, I have no choice but to defend myself.

Even though I don’t pull the trigger, I acknowledge my relief that the pack rats are gone.  And I’d like to propose a revision of the philosophy of live and let live.  How about this: live and let live but respect boundaries.  In other words, let’s make a deal. I offer the pack rats the whole, wild desert to play in and, in return, ask that they stay out of my space.

Hmmmm…. There might be a few two-legged critters I’d like to offer that same deal to.  Wonder if they’d go for it?

Belly Awareness

Posted by owner on March 17th, 2014 — in Memories

My belly took charge of things last week.  On my trip to Costco, I roamed the aisles I usually skip: appliances and housewares, gadgets and pots, lamps and reams of paper.  I was charged with finding a handcart, something small and collapsible, to be used for events, but something in the second aisle beckoned, whispering to my belly, “you need me”.  Like one of those folks who hang out at the gas station, offering to clean my dirty windshield, a Weight Watchers scale, discounted to $19.99, noticed the slight pooch of my belly and figured we were a match made in heaven.

I haven’t owned a scale in well over 15 years, but we are not strangers. In Chicago, at the end of my Friday trip to the health club, I’d gingerly step on the medical scale perched in a corner of the locker room, and slowly slide the weights to the right until they balanced.  Sometimes I’d glance over my shoulder to make sure no one was looking, then I’d place my feet in different positions, trying out spots that would register the lightest.  Of course, it didn’t matter if I stood on my head, on tiptoe or even one foot; it all came down to the same result.   For the most part, those were happy days for me and my belly. We were nice and taut from Pilates and weights, treadmills and spin classes.

When I moved to Aravaipa Canyon Ranch I escaped the demands of the scale. “As long as my clothes still fit…” was my mantra. Ranch life kept my belly in line:  mucking the horse corral, maintaining the grounds, lifting bales of hay, painting the sheds, tending the garden, and cleaning the 7 bedroom ranch house along with forays into the wilderness did the trick.  After two years, I moved to Gold Canyon, married for the second time, and settled into a sort of semi-retirement.  Glorious but softer. 

Like a deflated, wrinkled balloon, my belly tends to sag a bit thanks to two pregnancies in my 20’s.  Exercise mainly consists of hikes with the dogs and riding my bike.  Good for my legs but doesn’t do much for anything north of my thighs.  When the sun is shining and the sky is so blue, the local health club, though reasonably priced, quickly loses its allure. Sit-ups are a chore ranking well below cooking, laundry and vacuuming.  My belly has taken full advantage of this situation, blossoming like a full blown rose that never wilts. My comfortable, wearable wardrobe has shrunk to one pair of hiking shorts (with a little elastic in the waistband), a pair of Capri’s, and several loose blouses which means I’m doing laundry every other day.  (With all that laundry who has time for sit-ups?)  When I moaned to Tom about my belly, he did the safe, husbandly thing and said, you look fine to me. My belly rumbled gratefully in response but my mirror didn’t agree.

My belly responded to the call and the scale magically lifted itself off the shelf and floated into my cart. It sailed through check-out and found a home in the master bathroom next to the cat box.  I avoided it for two days until Tom finally noticed it.

 “What’s that?”  

 I had to confess. “My belly bought a scale.”

“How does it work?”

I rolled my eyes. “You stand on it and it sends your self esteem plummeting until you’re in tears.”

“Then why buy it?”

“I didn’t buy it, my belly did.”

Now it was his turn to roll his eyes. He tapped the glass top with his foot and the digital screen sprang to life. Without fear, he jumped on. “Hmmmm, not as bad as I thought.”  He stepped off and looked at me expectantly.

Good for you!” I called over my shoulder as I followed my belly out of the room. It’s different for men.  Tom gets away with wearing loose shorts and jeans that tend to ride below his belly.  The look works for him, but for a woman baggy equals frumpy.

A week went by before I summoned up the courage to step on the scale. I needed that week to diet and exercise so that I could say the same thing when I finally stepped on “not as bad as I thought.”   I chased the dogs and the cat out of the bathroom, kicked off my slippers, dropped my robe.  The scale was icy cold beneath my bare feet.  I closed my eyes for a good ten seconds then peeked at the screen.  Seven, maybe eight pounds, had to go.  My belly grunted in disgust as I stepped off for it knew it was entering a no peanut M&Ms zone. 

Since then, it’s been up and down.  One barbecue, a couple of lunches, and dinner out conspired to put my belly once again in the lead.  But I force myself on the scale every few days and now, four pounds lighter, I am giddy with looming victory.

I can hear you now and, yes, I agree with you.  I’m turning 61 years old this week and here I sit, still struggling with a self-image issue.  I’ve cajoled myself with the idea of self-acceptance, being comfortable in my own skin, and loving me as I am, but I’ve realized two things.  First: I may be the woman who never dyes her hair or wears make-up but deep down I am a little bit vain.  My hair might be gray and worn in a simple style, but I use a hair dryer and curling iron to get it there.  I don’t own a tube of lipstick or a lick of eye shadow, but I deeply moisturize and exfoliate to keep my skin glowing. Every six weeks I visit the nail salon to have the hiking calluses removed from my feet, but I also like seeing the polish on my toes.  I am a little bit vain. There, I said it.  And that’s a big step towards self-acceptance if there ever was one! 

Second, I struggle every day, in every moment to be aware of what I’m doing, seeing, feeling, and thinking.   When you have a monkey mind like I do, eating often becomes secondary.  I’m like an opportunistic dog:  put the dish in front of me and I’ll eat it all. There are times I look down at my plate in surprise that I’ve gulped down not one cookie, but three.  That the whole bowl of chips and salsa has disappeared without a trace.  Now, I can blame this on my upbringing and the whole starving children in China thing, but what it really comes down to is mindfulness.  Scale (after that first week we moved to a first name basis) is doing a bang-up job of making me aware of every morsel that passes my lips, every mile I pedal on my bike, every hill I hike.  Hell, I even did some sit-ups and push-ups the other day thanks to Scale. 

Are you using that thing?” Tom asked the other day.

Yep!  And it’s working!”

So it is.  Scale has insinuated itself into my life and I’m the better for it.  It may not be forgiving, but that’s another story for another day.

Horton Springs

Posted by owner on March 14th, 2014 — in Memories

 I stumbled into the kitchen around 5:30 in the morning with three wiggling dogs milling around my feet and one meowing cat.  After plopping cups of dog food and cat food into appropriate bowls, the animals settled in to eat breakfast while I struggled to fully open both eyes, but it was enough to notice a text from last night waiting on my phone.  

“Heading up to Payson Tuesday to hike to Horton Springs just below the Mogollon Rim.  Interested? Leaving at 8 and will be back before dark.”

My body slammed wide awake, energized by the thought of towering ponderosa pines and icy running water. Backpack packed, I kissed Tom good-bye and headed to my friend Cyndi’s place and by quarter after eight, the three of us, Cyndi, her dog Rudy, and I, were on the road heading up into the White Mountains. 

The Mogollon Rim, at an elevation of 8,000 feet, is an immense escarpment of sandstone and limestone running the breadth of Arizona along the southwestern portion of the Colorado Plateau.  Visions of long ago pioneers, cattle rustlers and cowboys danced in my head for Payson was the site of the late Western novelist Zane Grey’s home.  My late father rarely picked up a book to read, but when he did, it was a pretty good guess that the author was either Grey or Louis L’Amour.  As we rolled up the highway, I thought of Dad and how much he would have loved the landscape rushing by our windows.  After a long drive, our feet hit the trail around eleven a.m. and immediately we were immersed in towering trees, climbing steadily up to the Mogollon Rim to the music of gurgling water.  The air was sharp as a fine blade; delineating the trees against a pure blue sky. 

We ambled, first along the creek then along the high trail, but always, always returning to the water.  The creek tripped along, slipping down slide stone, tumbling over boulders, spinning into pools.  I envied Rudy each time he stepped into the cold water to drink.  I plunged my hand in from time to time, wet my feet as I stepped over stones to cross the stream and reveled in the icy purity.  I couldn’t be sure exactly when we reached the spring for on this day, time held no meaning.  We reached the spring when we were meant to and marveled that the edge of the Mogollon Rim was only a few steps further, but it was the spring that drew us.  We climbed, stretching our feet and hands to grasp boulders to pull us up to the source.  The water spewed out between the rocks and we discovered a small opening in the stone that allowed us to see the spring actually bubbling up from the Earth.  With my left hand I reached in, sinking it in up to my wrist…the Source. 

I’ve hiked mile after mile across so many places, wandered around the rim of the Grand Canyon, flew over an erupting volcano in Hawaii, prayed at Kilaeau, snorkeled with sea turtles, climbed to the mission of San Sebastian in Spain and wept tears in the embrace of the red rocks of Sedona.  Each experience captivated and humbled me, yet standing on the rocks of Horton Springs overwhelmed me like nothing else.  Here I witnessed the Earth Mother giving birth, her life force churning out to bring sustenance to all.  The vibration of the water entered my feet and pulsed through my legs and up to my heart.  Inhaling deep, I knew this moment was sacred fulfillment.

The sun’s descent brought a slight chill to the air, a signal to return to our car.  I brought a bottle of the sacred water back with me.  In my youth, before entering church, I would dip my fingers in the water font and make the sign of the cross in a ritual of blessing and purification.  This day I poured the clear spring water into an earthen bowl, dipped in my fingers and scattered drops around my home with prayers of gratitude.  The blessings continue.

Tears

Posted by owner on March 4th, 2014 — in Memories

Rain drenched the desert this past weekend, moisture we desperately needed.  The amazing thing about the desert is, after months without precipitation, the plants immediately burst with green after a mere inch of water. The crystalline air has been washed free of dust and all is pristine. Cholla glows in the sunlight, the brittlebush stands tall, and the globe mallow is vibrant and lush. Even birdsong rings more clearly after a rain; everything and everyone is energized. 

If water is that cleansing, that invigorating, why are we so often afraid to cry? Tears expose us to the world, leave us soft and vulnerable, yet it is in that vulnerability that we reveal our humanity.  The last two days I’ve been communicating online with a dear woman from my past.  Out of respect for her privacy I won’t reveal her identity or the genesis of our relationship. It is sufficient to know that after long years without contact she reached out to me in emotional pain.  As she shared the details of her situation, my heart heaved and tears welled in my eyes.  In her last missive, she told me tears were running down her face as she read my words and felt the love I extended to her. 

This morning as I walked the dogs through the fresh desert, I couldn’t help but think of the synchronicity of the desert rain and my friend’s tears. She brought me a gift: the recognition of the power of water to physically cleanse and the power of tears to emotionally heal.  Tears are meant to be spent. How often do we hide our tears in embarrassment, quickly wiping them away before anyone can see?  Instead of accepting the sweet release they bring, we hoard them, storing the emotions they represent away, piling them up like boxes on a dark closet shelf.  Time after time we cram those boxed feelings away, stoically standing tall beneath its weight until finally the shelf gives way. The closet door springs open and we find ourselves awash in a torrent of unresolved emotion and tears. 

Once I was gifted with a silver medallion etched with a Medicine Wheel by another dear friend. As she slipped the medallion over my head, tears dripped freely down my cheeks.  Embarrassed I brushed them away but she stayed my hand, telling me “your tears are crystal tears and are meant to be shared with the world.”  She was right. There is great beauty and power in running water, in flowing tears.  Like the desert after a rain, spent tears leave one clean and bright, ready for new.

The woman who reached out to me the other day lingers on my mind. I hope she reads my words.  I want to congratulate her and tell her I’m glad she wept for it means she is unafraid to heal and those tears are the first step on that path.  Sending her all my love and letting her know how grateful I am she shared her tears.

Fear and Creativity

Posted by owner on February 23rd, 2014 — in Memories

Returning from my morning walk in the desert with the dogs, my neighbor, William, who lives around the corner, stopped to say hello.  Every morning he walks his two young children to the school bus stop, a luxury he enjoys thanks to his career as a free lance writer for the sports and entertainment industry.  The bulk of his work is magazine articles and marketing for the local baseball team.  During the course of our conversation, William leaned in closer to me when he asked about my Monday morning writing group. His eyes sparked as I told him about our timed writings but, when I told him we read our work out loud, he physically drew back, put his hands up as if I had thrown a punch and sputtered, “how intimidating!”

Here is a man who supports his wife and two young children through his writing; rubs elbows with professional baseball players and baseball executives; and holds his own with the movers and shakers in the movie and television industries.   Yet, the thought of writing and reading out loud a 10 minute stream of consciousness piece scares the crap out of him.  Isn’t that true of all who indulge in the arts?  We invest more than time and effort, we invest sweeping amounts of heart and soul into our art, knowing that all who experience our work will, at least for a moment, hold our fragile life in her hands.  A roll of the eyes, a single word, even the tone of voice is all it takes to crush our hearts. We know it, yet summon up our courage day after day to offer ourselves to the world. We persevere for we have no choice but to create. With his response, William immediately endeared himself to me as a fellow human being and artist. Although I’ve never knowingly read his work, my gut tells me his writing shines.

How can you tell if your latest creation is great? How can you tell if it’s worth putting out there? Does it make you nervous? Are you sucking in your gut, preparing for the blow of criticism you feel sure is coming? When you hold it in your hands do the butterflies dance a jig in your belly? When you display your latest sketch, or read your piece out loud, does it make you weep or possibly laugh? Then, rest assured you’ve engaged the heart, expressed your humanity, and created something great, even if no one else gets it.

Several years ago I stood in a long line at the Printers Book Fair simply to have author Augusten Burroughs autograph a copy of his latest book. Some folks in line stepped quietly up to him; others managed to coax a smile. A few chatted with him as if they were the best of friends. Mr. Burrough’s writing is brutally honest, at times graphic, and sprinkled with humor. I admire him tremendously and fretted throughout the wait trying to think of something witty to say when I finally stood in front of him. As I placed my newly purchased book on the table, he robotically flipped it open, pen poised in the air as he waited for me to say my name.  “Thank you for writing,” popped out of my mouth. He dropped his hand, sat back and looked me straight in the eye and smiled.  

If I could, I’d purchase every piece of art and every book ever written and enjoy them to the fullest. But funds are limited, so the most I can offer to all artists and writers is the same thing I offered Augusten Burroughs.

Thank you for creating.

All You Need Is Heart

Posted by owner on February 11th, 2014 — in Memories

Last summer my friend Sharon and I decided to make our own drums.  We both enjoy Shamanic work and drumming is an essential part of that practice.  My first drum was small: a piece of cowhide on an 11.5 inch diameter wooden base.  It took us two days to complete those first drums and was only accomplished through the assistance of her artistic husband, Jim, kit instructions, and a Youtube video. As with all first attempts, we over-engineered, making it harder than it needed to be, but we were so proud of the end result, especially me! A novice drum-maker was born.

Yesterday, I added the finishing touch to my latest drum, a stylized painting of the sun. This was my sixth drum and already I am thinking of the next one.  In addition, I have helped my husband make two drums making a total of eight drums scattered throughout our house.  Oops, make that nine, as I neglected to count a store bought drum.   I forget that one simply because my homemade drums are so much better than the decorative one.

Why do I need so many drums?  Why am I so fascinated with drumming? Why has drumming been such an integral part of almost every indigenous culture since the beginning of humankind?  What do Ringo Starr and every other famed drummer know that we don’t know?  First, each drum has a different tone.  So many things impact the resonance: the size, the type of hide, its thickness, its decoration, even the tension combine to create its song. Second, each one is alive. Hold the drum up to catch the wind and you can hear its voice. In a circle, each drum hears the beat of its neighbor and all attune until discordance becomes fluid.  

Music may soothe the soul but drumming revs it up and carries it away to places mythical and magical.  My heart entrains with the percussive beat; my muscles start to twitch and bounce to the music.  The beat touches something deep inside, buried in the limbic brain, and unleashes a primal freedom. I am the classic definition of an introvert.  Each time I had to sing alone in front of my high school choir, my knees and voice quaked so much I could barely squeak out the words.  When I would sing along with the car radio, my children would yell “stop signing, Mom.” Yet at our first drumming circle in January, I led the group in a rollicking version of the Cherokee Water Song, chanting and drumming my heart out.   I didn’t care if it was good or bad. It simply was. Folks told me later it was the best part of the evening. That’s the beauty of drumming and chanting:  all you need is heart.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, my heart is on my mind. Notice I said “my heart” rather than “the heart” for I believe that when it comes to the heart, there is only one way to do it. You have to get personal. You have to dig in, open it up, turn it over, scour out the crud, and get ready for love to pour in.  Something or someone may crack it open a bit, but only you and you alone are in charge of getting it ready, like a mother bird feathering her nest in anticipation of new life.  I’m getting ready for the February Drum Circle, the circle in the month of the heart. Gathering with my friends, we’ll drum in Love, attraction, sacred union, mirroring and reflection.   We’ll allow the drums to purify our hearts and get them ready for new beginnings.   I don’t know for sure what that new beginning will bring, but somehow I think another drum begs for creation.

 

 

Freedom From Expectations

Posted by owner on February 5th, 2014 — in Memories

Projects, projects.   I am the best at coming up with projects. The new drum I made last week sits in the corner begging for my attention. I plan to craft a design on it, lovingly adorn it with oil paint. The sewing machine gathers dust as it waits for me to settle on a new fabric to recover the chair in the living room. Three gourds, count them – not one, not two, but three! – rest on the side countertop cleaned, cut and scraped. One will be corded, a second will be painted and the third carved and stained.  The garden is again full of weeds and the patio needs sweeping.  Not to mention the stacks of books waiting to be read, the dogs that require walking, and the husband that needs feeding.

What do all these projects have in common? They are nothing more than distractions to keep me from sitting down to write.  Honestly, it’s not the actual process of writing that is difficult. It’s the constant re-writing that sends me to the brink of despair.  Not once have I met my writing expectations. When I left Chicago behind and settled myself into Aravaipa Canyon, I had the mistaken idea that I would whip out my first book in a year. In fact, I was so naïve, I actually told the owner of the ranch that I would only be there a year. One year turned into two before book one was finished. You would think I might have learned something from that experience, but no. In November 2012 I sat down to pen book number two and here I sit, one year and two months later, about to begin the third draft. Last April I whooped and hollered that I finished it until I gave it to folks to review. Their feedback sent me down the path of revision, a torturous journey through the next November. Sending it off to a professional editor was a blessing and a curse, for now I know it could be better.  So much better.  If I’m lucky, it will be finished by year end but I’m not going to hold my breath.  

 I thought I was doing it wrong. Setting myself up for failure each time I set a deadline or expectation for completion of this book, then sabotaging myself with my distraction projects.  Today I realized I needed a new approach.  Freedom from expectations.  Everything that should be done will be done and when it is supposed to be done. Today I recognized that Creativity has no concept of time. It doesn’t care if it’s a hot, blazing summer or a soft, white winter; doesn’t care if it’s a full moon or mid-day sun. You can sit staring at your computer screen, a blank canvas or a lump of clay for hours on end without a single creative thought coming to mind. Then you’re standing in a long line at the grocery store, begging for the person in front of you to hurry up because you’ve got to find the ladies room before you burst, when wham! You catch a snippet of conversation, someone drops a carton of eggs, or two lovers quarrel the next aisle over. And you have it!  Creativity doesn’t always come when you are focused and demanding. Creativity is sneaky. It appreciates a little bit of chaos, a little bit of diversity, a little bit of life, then  It comes out in a rush.

The book will get finished, the drum will be painted, and the gourds adorned. I’ll throw an old blanket over the chair and carefully tuck it in for now. Don’t ask me when. The only thing that will get done today is the chair. BUT I researched designs for the drum and found one I like.  The gourds are still sitting there but I pulled a few weeds and wrote over 1,000 words. The dogs are content after an hour walk and when my husband comes in and asks what’s for dinner, I’ll drop a hint or two about that new restaurant that opened last week. If he doesn’t bite, I’ll get creative.

Living Large

Posted by owner on January 31st, 2014 — in Memories

My friend Celina took a break from the frigid Chicago weather to spend the week with me in Arizona.   She’s enjoying our warm temperatures so much I’ll probably have to drag her kicking and screaming to the airport today to catch her flight home.  Celina and I are different in many ways. While I am edging up on 61, Celina is 34 years old.  I wake before dawn and she sleeps in.  I crawl to bed about the time she is ready to party.  She likes to dress up; I dress down.  She is fond of chunky platforms while I prefer flats or sneakers.  She’s a city girl while I’ve shed that skin in favor of more rural roots. The most noticeable difference is height:  she’s the size of an Olympic gymnast and I am a robust 5’8”.

As we meandered through the outdoor mall yesterday, I noticed something.  Tiny Celina hauled an oversize black leather bag over her shoulder while I carried my simple, small leather wallet.  I pointed this out to her and said, “You’re living large in a small body while I’m trying to live small in a large body.”  We both erupted in laughter.  As I looked at her, I realized the truth of what I’d said.  She exudes an attitude of self confidence and puts herself out there every single day.

During my daily trek with my three dogs through the desert, that snippet of conversation floated through my brain. Celina was still buried deep in sleep while the dogs and I gloried in the sunrise.  The morning light draped the mountains in a mist of gold and the cholla and palo verdes glowed with pleasure and dog fur gleamed.  As I pushed my hair away from my face, I glimpsed the reflection of sunlight in the strands and it hit me: it’s all about perspective.  Some folks live large by doing things:  travel, theater, fine dining and concerts.  I enjoy those things immensely but what fills me more is my daily walk in the desert.  My aura expands and connects with the mountains, the towering saguaros, the coyotes and lizards scrabbling past, and even the stones beneath my feet.  I mingle with the Earth and Sky and become one with all that is.  I breathe deep and take it all in until there is no separation between the physical and spiritual realm.  Dressed in my worn sneakers, dusty jeans and faded sweatshirt, I put myself out there and glow in the morning light and I know this:  I, too, am living large.

 

Surrender

Posted by owner on January 23rd, 2014 — in Memories

Okay, I admit it.   Some days I get overwhelmed and get a little wacky.  I notice that it’s at those times I have lost touch with Spirit a little bit and, after mini-meltdown, I come back down to earth and realize I’ve been shirking my practice.  In a way, though, it’s a good thing. For it makes me think about what I had been doing as far as morning prayers and such.  At those times I realize I’ve been “calling it in”.  I take it for granted that simply because I am saying the words, by rote, that Spirit will be accepting.  The problem with that thinking is that I don’t accept it!  My soul is the one that rebels, hence the mini-meltdown. 

Why is it a good thing? Because it makes me reflect and re-evaluate; it prompts me to search for true meaning. I try new things.  Lately, I discovered a simple practice that for me has been especially powerful:  Surrender.  Did you catch that capital “S”?  When faced with issues before, I’ve asked Spirit to take the burden, figure it out, and then get back to me with a solution.  Now this works pretty well as long as I trust my intuition (which, after all, is nothing more than guidance from within), but it is not the whole enchilada.  When I surrender body, mind, and soul problems and challenges become stones in the river.   Have you ever taken time to sit next to a running creek or stream and notice the soothing sound of the water?  Think about it for a moment.  It’s not the water creating that sound.  It’s the combination of the water and the stones.  The water doesn’t allow the stones in its path to impede its progress, rather it surrenders to them.  The water embraces them, bouncing and splashing over and around them.  The water recognizes the stones for what they are:  opportunities to create a little soul-stirring music.

Each day I sit for fifteen minutes.  I begin by placing the Reiki symbols in each hand.  If you are not a Reiki practitioner, simply hold your hands in prayer position over your heart for a few moments. Then, with focused intention, I surrender my entire life to the loving care of Spirit.  I surrender my aches and pains.  I surrender conflicts both internal and external.  I surrender financial burdens. I surrender worries and concerns.  I surrender my ego.  I surrender my heart to the guidance of Spirit.  Then I place my hands palm up on my thighs, close my eyes and allow the energy to flow.  When I open my eyes, I feel light and grounded at the same time. My mind is at peace.