Westward Ho! Day 9.5

Roseburg, OR (9:30 AM) to Mill Valley, CA (7:00 PM). 462 miles.
Other Notables: Sting’s Brand New Day.

As I said in my previous post, yesterday started out in bipolar sludge.  But, it didn’t stay there.

IMG_0471I asked my Cat Whisperer to send photos of The Boys, and she responded lickety-split.  It helps to see that, while they miss me (evidenced by nervous spew), they look and act like themselves.  Emmett hides.  Henry dominates.  Eating and drinking and litter-boxing continue.  Nothing there for my worrisome thoughts to stick to.IMG_0468

I abandoned my Great Idea of taking most of my food with me in a borrowed cooler.  What seemed like a frugal adventure in South Dakota got boring food-wise and too high maintenance for me (like finding room in someone’s freezer every night for my ice bag).  In rebellion and shear peevishness, I stopped at KFC for lunch.  Then, at a gas station near Williams, California, I trashed my week-old Clementines and dumped the ice.  Instant relief.

knobAround 6:00, about two hours north of San Francisco, I felt a subtle shift.  Like an old TV channel knob, I felt the click–just one– to a higher frequency.

I noticed how the light, slanting in from the west, lit up the hillsides like chartreuse fire.  Those terran White Whales, furred over by tender spring greenery, breached the flat olive groves with house-sized barnacles casting long emerald shadows.  The beauty of all that blazing green did something to my brain.  Or my brain changed channels enough for me to appreciate it.  Tomato.  Tomahto.

IMG_0447I got to my nest for the next two nights; a  real nest in the middle of the redwoods.  All the houses in this neighborhood hang from the cliffs like aeries.

IMG_0451Mary met me as I parked in her carport as directed.  Thin, with a soft-spoken Scottish burr (yes!), she took me down the stairs from street level to the studio room under the carport.

IMG_0454I get my own little patio to commune with the trees and a completely private space.  More beauty.  More hospitality.  More gratitude.  I cooked up my Ramen noodles (not all foodstuffs ended in a dumpster) and felt better.IMG_0456

I don’t even mind (much) that there’s coffee and a coffee maker, but no cream or sugar. And nothing even remotely resembling breakfast.  There is, however, a tiny bottle of olive oil and a toaster over.  The second “B” in B & B, I find, is open to much interpretation. IMG_0455

I don’t care.  It’s a brand new day.


Feeling Human

April is National Poetry Month.  Who knew?  Congress obviously has other fish to fry than announcing such news to the country.  But our local library knew and sponsored a wonderful event the other night.

A retired English teacher from a nearby school district gave a program on Robert Frost.  He told about Frost’s life and struggles as a poet and a man, then sprinkled the talk with performances of Frost’s poetry.  I say performances because these were more than readings or recitations—they were dramatic expressions of Frost’s words and emotions.  I was moved to tears during every poem, and now have a whole new appreciation for the man and his poetry.

As I walked home under a star-laden sky, I felt like some empty cup inside me had been filled—the part of me that loves theater and folk music from other countries, the part of me that dances and chants, the part of me that seeks out museums and art festivals, the part of me that lives in color and moves in rhythm.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  What was that expansive feeling that had been watered by Robert Frost?  Then the stars told me.  I feel human.

• • •

A Minor Bird

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

Robert Frost

Party Assemblage

Plans are coming together for my Callinda Celebration Party on April 21.  I’ve reserved the community room in our apartment complex, made and sent the invitations.  Just when I was ready to raid my little savings account (the start of a new car fund) in order to cater the food, Mom offered to pay for everything.  What a wonderful gift!  I fully intended to celebrate in style, not put out a bowl of M&Ms and cheap punch, which is what I can afford.  I wanted to celebrate life now, not wait a decade when I may or may not be able to buy a car.  Get fear out of the way and miracles happen.

Now I’m in the process of making the party favors.  I wanted to create a little piece of art for everyone to take away with them, so I printed out quotes from the book and made a little platform for them.  This involves sewing fabric onto cardboard (yes, I had to learn how to sew again), lots of paint, stamping, embossing, beading, funky fabrics, sequins, fibers and the accompanying glues, tapes and tools.  I’m taking this:

And turning it into this:

I can only do three or four a day (sewing into cardboard, even with a thimble, is a little rough on the fingers), but in the meantime I can attend to other party details.  Like ordering an alien-looking, Zen floral arrangement for the table, and washing up the glass service party trays from my mom’s basement (and a recent find at a local thrift store).

Assemblage is a study in details—one more layer, one more bead, one more texture.  I’m hoping my party will hum with subtext and delight the eye.  The overriding theme is joy, and I can hear the laughter already.

Mile Stone #1

∞ ∞ ∞

After two and a half months of paying attention to what I put in my mouth and hanging ten on my compulsive eating surf board, I reached my first weight loss goal of 20 pounds.  Now, it feels real.  My clothes are starting to feel loose—one pair of jeans even needs a safety pin.  Now, I know I can keep going, making one better choice at a time, and learning to befriend my compulsive eating.

To celebrate, I made myself this collage with Charlize Theron (the most beautiful woman on the planet), my goal weight, and the Queen of Disks to keep me inspired.

Every week at T.O.P.S. when I get to announce my weight loss, I stand up and do Steve Carell’s happy dance.  That’s what I’m doin’ now, baby.  Uh, Uh, uhuhuh.

Steve Carell’s Happy Dance from Evan Almighty.

Mirror, Mirror

The impetus for my recent trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul was two-fold.  A good friend was about to undergo a simple but scary surgery all by herself, and I wanted to be there to support her.  Another friend and I had talked about me “coming up” in January sometime to spend the weekend.  It worked out that I could do both in the same trip.

I’ve been fond of saying lately that I’ve lost my people skills.  I used to be pretty gregarious and easy-going, but since my bipolar blow-up five years ago and the subsequent struggle toward sanity, I seem to be much less tolerant of humankind in general.  Staying in other people’s homes for ten days made me realize that what I’m really uncomfortable with is the view in the mirror.

Those of us who have gone through therapy, or done any spiritual work, or seen Dr. Phil know that when other people irritate us, we’re really just reacting to the same or similar qualities or fears in ourselves.  People act as a mirror to show us what we dislike about ourselves, and where we need to focus our love in order to heal.  Other people don’t piss me off.  I piss me off.

So, I received gift after gift of insight while staying with my friends.  I discovered that my best friends are my cats, and that I really don’t want to bother with anyone else.  I realized that I expect to be catered to, my needs anticipated and planned for through some miraculous act of clairvoyance (so much easier than all that pesky communication crap).  If I don’t have a person’s rapt and undivided attention, I am unloved, unworthy and unimportant.  I’ve gotten so fixed on order and routine that untidiness of any kind feels like a threat to my sanity.  And, perhaps hardest of all, men make me nervous, but I want one.

Holy Hand Mirror, Batman!  No wonder I hole up in my apartment with the covers over my head and a cat in my armpit.  I do not want to see these things about myself, but there they are—hiding in plain sight along with other niggles I’ve yet to translate.  But, this is the nature of the Work.  Look.  See.  Be curious about funny reactions to things and people.  Go deeper.  Look again.

I love and adore my girlfriends who opened their homes to me.  I bless them for tolerating my fussiness as I gazed into their beautiful mirrors.  And I thank them for the gifts, which give me my next bits of Homework.  On the other side of that work will be someone who breathes deeper and is more comfortable in her own skin.  And maybe even a better friend.

Amazed in Blogland

Yesterday was a first for me.  Someone reblogged my post to their own blog.  I didn’t know whether to be flattered or run to the teacher and tattle.  So, I zipped over to this rapscallion’s site to see what was going on.

Well, for Heaven’s Sake.  Ian Reese is from Mumbles, South Wales.  I could not have made that up on my best writing day.  His motto is Nid bod ond byw, which is Welsh for Not existing, but living.

The more I explored his blog(s), the more perplexed I became.  This young man writes mostly thoughtful political commentary about what’s going on in Britain, or posts wonderful photography.  How the heck did my little post on searching for the ultimate coffee shop fit his gestalt?  And how in the world did he find me in the first place?

Sometimes this blogging business feels like the ultimate in serendipity.  Social Media meets the Laws of Attraction and Karma.  You get what you put out into the world.  What goes around, comes around.  Toss a bit of your soul into the vasty, cyber seas and it comes back in a bottle made of diamonds.

The people I’ve met by keeping this public journal are deep and wide, soulful, striving, loving human beings who shock my socks off every single day.  Even old friends and members of my family reveal parts of themselves here that are surprising and tender.  What a miracle to connect with such beauty!  What a miracle to be found, stumbled over in the electronic dark, by minds and hearts so open and giving.

Ian, if you’re out there, buddy, I thank you for this amazing gift.  And I promise to keep on living, not just existing.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 15

Since I kill anything I stick in the dirt, I appreciate the gorgeous gardens I see all around me.  Flowers, vegetables, rocks, grasses, bushes, trees, landscaping (especially in Culpeper, since it is so nostalgic for me) or wild abandon, the variety awes me.  There’s something magic in running across a blaze of color on the street, or finding a hidden patch of tranquility tucked around a corner.  I appreciate the hard work and expense of those patches of beauty, the goofy doo-dads and statues stuck amongst the greenery, and the way they gather in the wildlife.  Seeing other people’s gardens always makes me take a deeper breath and release whatever tension I’m carrying around.  What a gift—right out there for anyone who happens by.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 14

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting around our kitchen table on the farm, the family eating and talking, when one of us would say something that contained a song lyric.  Suddenly, my mom would burst into song with that fragment as a prompt.  We’d all groan and laugh, but it was a great bit and something all the women in our family continue.

My mom, my sister and I all love to sing.  We joined choruses and choirs, sang solos for events, and generally use any excuse to warble.  My friend, Deb, also has a gorgeous voice.  When she and I get together, we crank up the volume to operatic proportions and caterwaul until the walls tremble.  And there’s just nothing as satisfying or as life-affirming for me as driving down a country road, harmonizing with my old rock ‘n’ roll favorites.  I can belt it out with Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt on a good day.

Singing is energy.  It’s light and love pouring out of my body and into the Universe.  It’s health and delight.  It grounds me.  It’s who I am.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 10

Storms in the early morning yesterday knocked out power for twelve hours.  Some parts of town are still dark and closed.  I guess that’s a good enough reason to be a day late with this Gratitude entry.

I dig the whole gestalt of writing in a cafe.  Some writers need solitude and silence, a special desk or pen, the perfect Bach concerto, or enough room to get up and pace.  When I find the right coffee shop, I can write for hours with a pencil and a stack of napkins.

Haven opened in March of last year, and it gave me everything I needed: a small table set a little apart from the others next to a big window; a padded chair (a must when fighting Writer’s Butt); a beautiful atmosphere; coffee; delicious treats at a very reasonable price; friendly, funny staff; coffee; interesting patrons; light and tasty meals (in case the writing is going well and I don’t want to stop); and did I mention coffee?

I love being a regular at Haven.  Just like Norm in “Cheers,” I’m greeted by name when I walk in the door.  I’m included in the goings-on of the place, from trying out new drink experiments to checking the spelling on the new menu.  This winter, when I was weaning off my medications, they called me at home when I didn’t show up for a couple of days.  I’ve made good friends there.

Like every establishment, all is not paradise.  Brian, the flamboyant manager, has a volatile temper that gives a whole new meaning to “scorched earth policy.”  But, Dan, the mild-mannered owner, and Joyce, the front manager, can generally counter-balance Brian’s outbursts.  It helps that most of the kitchen staff are laid back and witty.   There are some real Zen masters back there at the prep table.

A little drama.  A nice latte.  A few words with the local philosophy professor.  It’s all part of getting into my Word Groove.  That’s the bottom line for me.  If I can leave with a couple of new pages of the novel, a couple of pages of notes, and a plan for what needs to be written tomorrow, it’s a damn fine day.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 9

Some people need the rhythm and vastness of the sea, some the crisp grandeur of the mountains.  I’m more of a Red Riding Hood.  Give me a deer trail through a stand of old elm and boxelder trees, and I can be content for days.  Years ago, my friend Steven, a naturalist with shamanic leanings, taught me how to walk in the woods.  Go slow.  Look down.  Look up.  Listen.  I’ve found porcupine nests high up in the trees, bear claw marks on saplings, scat from fox, deer and rabbits, wild strawberries and tiny wildflowers.  I’ve found brooks by listening, adjusting my trajectory, listening again.  I’ve sat quietly and watched unfamiliar birds, sometimes sketching them in my notebook.  I’ve peered into the artistry of deadfall carved by termites.

I enter the woods like I’d enter a stranger’s house—respectfully, mindful not to break any pretties or leave a mess, always offering thanks for the gift I take home.  And there’s always a gift, whether it’s in my pocket or in my heart.

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