I draw from the river flask an icy swill to shore up my ancient veins, for soon the raptor will swoop down with his mighty talons and grasp my barren crown.
photo: along the banks of the Sauk River (Darrington, WA, Feb 2016)
I draw from the river flask an icy swill to shore up my ancient veins, for soon the raptor will swoop down with his mighty talons and grasp my barren crown.
photo: along the banks of the Sauk River (Darrington, WA, Feb 2016)
It’s been kind of a rough week – I won’t get into the gory details… Trust me, they’re not worth the digital ink on the page – it’ll bore you to tears!
In all of it, though, I have emerged – a bit weary and scraped, and definitely (ego-) bruised, but – intact and having learned a lesson or two along the way.
Can I just say, no matter how much unbridled hope you have, no matter how much flattery you’ve stored up in the form of compliments and well-wishes from friends, family, and the sweet little old lady at the craft store who doesn’t understand that you didn’t make a mistake and put your wedding ring on the wrong hand – because it’s NOT a wedding ring (it’s just a stupid ring to not make my, umm I mean your, hands look so plain and dismally naked!)…
Ahem, sorry… where was I? Oh, yes, compliments and well-wishes…
So, with all those little love notes of hope and (bloated) confidence making you feel as if the world will bend to your delightful whims, let me reassure you – the sun will NEVER rise in the west!
Nature IS! If nature started acting contrary to what is has always been – i.e., the sun rising in the west instead of the east – could you imagine the amount of chaos that would create?! If the waves crashed onto the shore with all the splendor and majesty we know and love – the sound of its roaring strength and the sizzle of churning foam on its peaked tips – and then receded, only to fail in its rhythmic return for hours, what then? How far from shore would the water linger before once again quenching the sandy terrain? And the moon? What if it decided to spin off on its own and hang out in the orbit of another planet for a night or two, just on the weekend, because hey, it’s the weekend, and the moon deserves a vacation too, right? While we’re at it, how about lemon trees bearing grapes and rose bushes producing acorns and blueberries? Just for fun, cheetahs residing under water, talking ladybugs, and sea stars with proper legs and feet, strolling along in Central Park?
I remember a line – or rather, a scene – from a movie where one individual laments “a bird may love a fish… but where will they live?” to which another (who by all accounts should know that Nature IS and cannot be changed, altered, or drastically redirected) exclaims “then I shall have to make you wings!” (collective “awe”…) But really, even if – even if!! – a fish could be suited with proper wings, to take flight alongside the bird, their two hearts soaring through the blue vastness together, eventually the fish would perish – for lack. of. breath! Why? Because. Nature. IS!
Okay, now hold on to your over-priced lattes and tea-cakes; here’s the boomerang! As I was myself lamenting about the sad state my affairs find themselves in at the near-close of this week, I came across an unassuming email and without hesitation, opened it for a quick read. There in bold, LARGE TYPE FACE was:
For nothing is impossible with God. – Luke 1:37
Now, I’m not saying the laws of nature are going to be tossed into oncoming traffic and carried off at break-neck speeds (because, come on, let’s be real! Traffic NEVER moves that fast around here)! No. Nature (still!) IS. However, if the will of Lord is that something be different than what has previously been the “status quo” – even if that “status quo” has withstood the test of time, and even sustained a longer run time than The Simpsons, Keith Richards, or cockroaches! – then rest assured, His will is going to supersede! Because, well, “[For] nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37). And in case that wasn’t clear enough, Matthew recorded this: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).
I’m not going to fill my head with ridiculous rationalizations and fanciful dreams that come from a foolishly hopeful heart – that’s what 3-year-old girls do when they exclaim that they’re going to grow up to be mermaids and fairy princesses. No. I’m going to accept that the sun will never rise in the west, and know that it has nothing to do with me – it’s just how nature IS. What I am going to do, however, is find joy in the familiarity of nature’s laws, its calming, recognizable routine – the ones that I’ve become accustomed to over the past four decades (plus or minus five or ten years…).
Trying to redirect the wind and the waves has worn out my soul and my spirit, and has left me feeling defeated more times than I care to count. This time, though, I have learned that it is not my place to change nature, no matter how much bottled-up optimism I brandish in my arsenal. Instead, I am relinquishing my rebellious psyche for one of a more temperate disposition, (begrudgingly perhaps) accepting that I am right where I am supposed to be in the midst of nature and all its splendor, and banking on the promise:
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29, 31)
I have engaged myself in writing a nonfiction piece, investigating some autobiographical avenues and peppering them with inspirational anecdotes, sharing biblical references that helped me stay grounded during times of severe adversity, all in an effort to join up with others who may be traveling similar paths through difficult valleys.
There are some friends and family that know my story, and I’ve had the opportunity to share parts of my story during a women’s breakfast as an encouraging devotional a few years back; however, I’ve never bore my heart and history in as much detail all at one time, or all in one place before… It’s a little intimidating!
During the brain-storming and initial outlining phases, I was blown away at the sheer amount of content that came to mind! I guess I have stopped looking in the rear-view mirror of my life… Some issues still affect my day-to-day living – even at eight years old – and I’ve learned to take those in stride, along with new trials and triumphs (yes, I’ll be celebrating victories and exciting events as well as discussing arduous challenges and how to find peace and foster joy despite surrounding circumstances).
My job consists of many time-sensitive tasks, and I work best when given specific time parameters; therefore, I’m designing a strict timeline for this – I’m a “deadline-minded” individual. Am I prone to procrastination? Is the sun hot? Of course I am! Which is why I needed to set a timeline. I appreciate your patience as I take time to work on this project. I will do all I can to keep this blog page updated, and full of entertaining content. (I have found that I miss writing the content-rich blog posts that filled my page at its onset; I hope to return to that, sooner rather than later!
(I will admit that the first quarter of the year is incredibly laborious on the job front, and there are times when, by my arrival at home, I simply lack the physical stamina and emotional energy to compose decent content. I am however working on reaching a better work-life balance…)
I wanted to end this post with a question – something I haven’t really done in the past (outside of rhetorical questions, leaving you with thoughts to chew on and concepts to wrestle with). This is a question that I found as I pondered different writing topics. I may still use this question to spawn a book in the (not-too-distant) future; however, I am sincerely curious to hear what you think about this. Leave a comment!
You’ve been presented with the opportunity to throw five items into an incredibly powerful fire – a fire that will consume and destroy any item tossed into its flame. Upon hurling these five items into the fire, there will be no trace of them left anywhere – no memory, no recollection, no Internet shadow, nothing; it will be as if these items never existed! What would your five items be and why? Would there be consequences or ramifications to removing these items from existence? What would those be and how would you deal with that?
Stage left. Stage right. Center stage. Back stage. Briefly separated for the express purpose of synchronization and harmony in the final stages. Lines. Lines of dialogue. Suspension lines. Each line and bar of music, and lines upon lines of lyrics to memorize. Scattered pieces, misfitting components, a menagerie of personalities and talents, a motley crew of strengths, experiences, and expertise, all drawn together by the love of art and the desire to share it with a willing and receptive audience. Regardless the medium, ART is at the center of our eARTh; be sure to take it in and appreciate it!
Image details: up in the foothills of the Cascade mountain range in Washington State. A quick pit stop to enjoy the beautiful scenery. (02/07/16)
Surrounded by nothing more than the sound of the rushing river current far beyond the trees, serenity transformed into unease as I pondered the source of the adjacent dirt track.
Image credit: Olivier Guillard
During the drive up the tree-lined forest road, winding along the southern tip of the serene lake, my mind wandered, wondering what might be left of the small cabin that saw the sun rise and set on countless unscripted days of my youth. The path was no longer well-worn but the trees whispered my name. Upon seeing the shack, memories flooded back, thick with the stench of wet moss and pine boughs. The tilted front deck sighed under each step, the torn screen door dangled from its hinges, and inside, the fireplace still cradled pounds of ash and expired timber.
For a while (I’m almost embarrassed to mention how long), I’ve been working on a “children’s” story – inasmuch as the Chronicles of Narnia are children’s stories, but you get the intent. Because of school demands, outrageous work hours, and a cavalcade of health setbacks, this story line took a back seat to, well, life, and its trouble-making hoodlum buddies. It has been this particular story, though, that has been tugging at my ‘novelistic’ heartstrings, begging that I return to my innermost passion, picking up the pieces that I had left scattered across my multiple flash drives as well as what I can recall from memory, having lost nearly the full beginning chapter to a virus-ridden hard drive. I was recently struck with a bolt of inspiration, almost audibly hearing one of the young characters in a conversation with her wise, gentle mother. I seized the opportunity to share an intimate moment with Mademoiselle Muse while she decided to grace me with her presence, despite the ungodly hour on the clock – sleep, be damned! – and such progression is always high-potency fuel on the fire! I’m hoping over the course of the next few weeks, this creative awakening takes up residence without fail and I’m able to continue developing this particular story line; I would love to see these characters come to life and be enjoyed by others!
For now, a tidbit to share with you all:
Willow was coaxed from the comfort of the den, the silken fur tipping her ears swayed by the melodious fog that caressed the timbers as it rolled up from deep within the valley. Against her nature, she sat quietly, watching the wispy air finger its way up and through nearby trees, convincing stubborn leaves to twirl and tremble, wave and waltz with a commanding gentleness. A shimmer of brilliant light shone from around the high back root of the Borealis tree, drawing Willow’s attention. Where the light was coming from was a mystery, as the fog still rested in the canopy overhead. The young fox crawled toward the illuminated root, battling curiosity and trepidation.
“What is it, young one?” the soft, tender voice of Sequoiasong patiently beckoned from just outside the den’s opening.
“A light…” Willowwood stammered, refusing to turn her gaze from the mysterious spectacle. “A brilliant light, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, Mother! I don’t know where it’s coming from; but I don’t want to lose it! ”
“And what is your plan for this light, Willowwood?” Sequoiasong needled. “Will you snatch it up in your jaws and drag it off somewhere, burying it as a prize for yourself?”
“I just want to see where it’s coming from and where it leads.”
“Are you sure you want to know that much about something so mysterious?”
“Of course I want to know!” The petite fox hopped up and down on all four of her dusty paws in a dance of wild impertinence. “And I want to know why the fog sings.”
“You hear the fog singing? What is it saying to you, my young one?”
Willowwood’s frolicking halted and she tilted her right ear toward the sky. “I don’t understand what it’s saying, Mother.” She pinched her eyes tight as if shutting out all light helped with auditory senses. “I’m not even sure there are words… Just a haunting song… A haunting song – so beautiful – my heart, Mother…”
What is it exactly?
By definition, perspective is “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”. (It can also be defined as “the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point”, and although it is arguable that life is art, I won’t be addressing artistic perspective, per se, today.)
I find it interesting – nay, intriguing! – how perspective influences our opinion. Much like experiences having leverage and significant impact on the dimension of our focus (see post Finding Humanity in Winter), one’s perspective in direct relation to a situation not only predicates the response given, it often monopolizes it, regardless of any previous experience to the contrary. Basically, if we’re in the dark and darkness is all we see, it is unfathomable to see anything more than darkness despite having experienced ‘light’ and ‘bright’ in the past.
Extreme? Perhaps. But nonetheless not necessarily untrue.
Illustration: Think back to the last time you had a severe cold, or the flu (or, if not yourself, a loved one that you helped care for during that time). Day Two or Day Three into the experience, the wretchedness of sinus pressure, the shredding pain of broken glass shards tumbling down your constricted, raw throat with each swallow, feverish chills forcing you deep under the tonnage of fleece and woven cotton only to be marred by the beads of sweat on your brow, and the ripping ache throughout your joints, restricting fluid movement, draining every ounce of energy out of your listless frame. Even to partake in a cup of lemon chamomile tea with honey or bowl of chicken noodle soup is a monumental chore. You lay there, tissue in hand, dabbing your swollen, chapped nose and expel the simple words illuminating your current perspective, “this flu is killing me!”
You’ve had the flu before. And you’ve, well, survived… And, despite that present position, deep within the recesses of snuggle blankets and menthol throat lozenge wrappers, the predominant prognostication is that you, indeed, will again escape the clutches of Death in a week or so – with plenty of rest and clear fluids – but you can’t see beyond the mounting pile of discarded tissues, drawing on faded memory, to know that you will see the light of another day. Your feet will touch ground again, gleefully participating in retail therapy. Your tongue will relish in fantastical feasts and roaring repartee. And yes, your heart will languish in the thought of wasting another breath in the living tomb which is your office cubicle… But you don’t see that; you see death. You see permanence in the temporary – darkness in the midst of residing in the dark, casting aside the lucid remembrance of healthier days…
So, how is it that we shake off this “permanence in the temporary”, and realize things for what they are – or what they could be? How do we change our perspective even if our circumstance has not changed? If the physicality of something remains the same, how do we redefine it?
Several of my current circumstances can easily lend to melancholy and the ambiance of defeat. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when I succumb to these jesters and lose sight of things beyond the temporary; however, as the past chapter’s song floats away on the evening breeze and providence crashes upon a new calendar year (Hello, 2017! Let’s be friends, shall we?), I’m determined to remain aware of my perspective, adjusting it as one would a manual camera lens, allowing in light and clarity of focus, distilling shortsightedness, and capturing inspiration, catapulting me through – beyond! – the darkness and into the warmth of glowing hope, where once before I drew breath.
Have you ever had the pleasure of teaching a youngster the fine art of whistling? How about attempting to communicate with an individual who speaks a completely different language? How would you convey to a blind person the magnificence and splendor, contour and texture, beauty and awe of clouds? Seemingly impossible tasks, wouldn’t you say? It’s hard to fathom things beyond our own narrow scope of reality. Without having relatable experiences, we are left with vague interpretations, frustrating abstractions, and a plethora of misunderstandings.
Winter is definitely upon us here in the US. As is common, there are certain areas (ahem, I’m talking to you: the southern ends of California, Arizona, and Texas; Hawaii; and the Florida panhandle) who refuse to participate, but as I survey my purplish-pinkish-blue fingertips, I can’t say I blame you! And it’s not like I haven’t been through a winter or two up here in the north end (it’s no Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Maine), but sometimes, I’m just taken aback a little by the biting cold and reminded of my own personal vulnerabilities. It’s because of this that I was drawn to a new opportunity to help serve in a little yet profound capacity. And when describing this new venture to a family member back home (in a non-winter-participating location), I became aware of our simple short-sightedness in light of lack of experience.
In most large metropolitan cities, there are men’s and women’s shelters that are run continuously throughout the year, day in and day out. These facilities provide lodging and meals for those who are without the means to provide for themselves the basic needs of food and shelter. Regardless of how one ends up in such a situation, it’s a beautiful thing to know there are those who are willing to step in and bridge the gap, whether through monetary donations to keep the shelters up and running, through donations of food and supplies, or through donations of time, serving and developing relationships with those who walk through the doors of the facilities in need of assistance, in need of a hand up, in need of hope for tomorrow, in need of a sense of humanness in their lives. In colder climates, even in the midst of full-time shelters, there are what are referred to as “emergency cold weather shelters” that open in the event that the weather is forecasted to drop below freezing overnight. These are temporary locations set up within churches, businesses, and other community outreach organizations, coordinated through bands of volunteers for the express purpose of providing safe, hospitable shelter during unsafe, inhospitable weather – further bridging the gap and reaching out to a segment of the community most in need of compassion and warmth (both figuratively and literally).
As I became more acclimated to “winter” – read: temperatures below 50 degrees F – I had heard from time to time the mention of these “emergency cold weather shelters”, but was rather unfamiliar with them. Just this season, however, I had the opportunity to invest whole-heartedly into my community’s outreach program, and become a volunteer! There are actually three participating facilities within the city where I live that coordinate to make sure each day of the week is covered, if need-be. My specific affiliation facility handles Thursday nights; however, since finishing up my studies, I didn’t see any harm in disseminating my name throughout each of the three facilities, to make sure I could be of benefit whenever needed! Each night is broken up into three shifts: 7pm – 11pm, 11pm – 3am, and 3am – 7am. There are always at least two volunteers during each shift, a dinner served at 7:30pm, doors locked and lights out at 10pm, rise with breakfast at 6am, and doors locked again at 7am (to allow for those who have jobs to attend to, time to get off and going). Granted, the “emergency cold weather shelters” are not open every night – only when the weather is forecasted to dip below freezing (32 degrees F), so there are days that go by when there is no need for the volunteers. There are, however, other times when the shelter is open for several days at a time. And because the shelter is hosted by different participating facilities on different nights, the supplies (mattresses, pillows, linens, toiletries, check-in paperwork, etc.) has to be picked up, packed up, transported, unloaded, re-disseminated time and time again – all through the hard work of the volunteers and coordinated effort of the outreach program.
I’ve had the pleasure of shaking hands, filling soup bowls, brewing coffee, and sitting down to engage in conversation with several of the guests of the cold weather shelter in my community. I know several guests by name, and while only a couple remember my name (which isn’t a big deal to me), quite a few recognize me and greet me tenderly. The humility, graciousness, and true gratefulness I’ve seen displayed by these guests is heartwarming.
Twenty years ago, I had never witnessed a snowflake falling from the sky. I’m not complaining; I was blessed to grow up without the fear of frozen pipes, black ice, or snow drifts (of course that also meant no snow days – ever!) Because of that, though, I also never would have known what an “emergency cold weather shelter” was, nor would I be able to explain how they functioned; my narrow scope of reality was dictated by my experiences. Even more so was my shielded view of those beautiful people who walk through the doors, thankful for a warm meal, a warm place to lay their head for the night, and a warm, friendly face, sharing with them the simple “hello” of humanity.
I am grateful for new relatable experiences that help to clarify vague interpretations, add definition to the abstractions of life, and sort out, slowly, the plethora of misunderstandings.
I’m stealing a few moments to compose this post… Why, you ask? Because I absolutely lost track of the days this week! I know, right? Not that anything in particular has been happening… Trust me when I say nothing special – absotively, posilutely, N.O.T.H.I.N.G. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. – has been going on this week; one beige-tinted day bleeding into the next… With that, I’ve just lost track of which boring-blah, “do I really have to do this again?!” day it was, and missed my typical Wednesday evening post…
I am proud to report my son’s face still sports some pretty spiffy stubble, for those with super-sharp vision! He complains about it every other day, as he rubs his hand across his chin. I just chuckle and urge him to carry on the brave fight! I think for his birthday – well, more an early birthday gift – I’ll get him a nice set of blades and a razor handle, from one of those mail order men’s shave vendors. I think he’ll enjoy that; it’ll appear much more “manly” than the, umm, planetary-named blade of blush tone he currently has resting on the sink in his bathroom…
I, on the other hand, have come to the conclusion that attempting to rush from a 40,000-plus word-count, 8-week semester in school that ended in late October right into NaNoWriMo was definitely ill-fated, at minimum. Both the excruciating physical pain in my hand due to arthritis in my lower thumb joint coupled with the emotional stress of pushing – nay, bullying – myself into such an undertaking has left me feeling even more drained, and with that, the fibro flares and tumor headaches have become more frequent instead of the exact opposite – enjoying the idea of not being in school right now, relaxing, taking in all the life has to offer, spending time with friends and family, and foregoing the stress of a rigid non-work-related schedule. It is apparent that I needed more than 10 days to recuperate from the school term, and I didn’t allow myself that time.
On the bright side, I did come up with a new story line, and I will pursue it! If everything works out well, I will actually COMPLETE this project! (I do go to bed every night thinking up both dialog and scene progression, so that’s good!) I just won’t continue to force myself to meet some unattainable – unattainable for me, anyway, and at this particular juncture in my life, extremely unrealistic – timeline for the sake of what, saying “I did it”? I’d rather say “I did it!” when I know saying so will go hand-in-hand with presenting something worth reading, and won’t land my toosh in a hospital bed!
Here’s to growing wise in my old age, and appreciating the difference between quantity and quality.