Saturday, March 26, 2016

readorable

i love this, as seen at powell's bookstore:  "readorable, adjective:  exceedingly lovable while in the act of reading."

out of the mouths of babes

yesterday, when i told my seven year-old friend that i was just a big kid myself; a twelve year-old trapped inside a forty-two year-old body, he looked at me and said, "that's seriously messed up".  i took this as a quite normal opportunity to teach him about metaphors and to read to him from "mrs. frisby and the rats of nimh".  to which he replied, "it's a british story, you might have trouble with some of the words, i know my teacher did."

whether it was pretending the mustard bottles (with the lids firmly in place) were jet packs under our sleeves--this helped immensely with clearing the table--or the fact that i read not one but three chapters, i don't know, but he looked at me with that perfect childlike translucence and said, "you're cool!".

let us not, dear adults, become overrated as we grow.  kids are where it's at. also this week i received drawings from a friend's daughter of dogs and cats going to the park.  she was quite proud of her authorship.  and, when i discussed blogging with my pre-teen friend, i was so relieved to find out that she no longer considered our "word of the day" tradition too childish.

me:  "so, i really want to ask you what the word of the day is, if that's cool with you and all, i mean..."
her:  "that's totally cool with me, i've been wanting to ask you, too!"
me:  "really?  that's awesome because i thought maybe you might think it was a little kid thing and you've grown up quite a bit."
her:  "luckily we don't outgrow words of the day, so what is it already?!"
me:  "you're my kind of girl!  i was hoping you'd ask!  it's 'surreptitious' "
her:  (looking it up--my kind of girl again!) like syrup?
me:  "no, s-u-r-r...you've got it!"
her:  "super cool!"

needless to say, my faith was restored.  need a little?  take the prescription of hanging out with some young people and you'll quite possibly catch a dose of fresh energy.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

dear nature

i can finally hear what the poets
stafford, hopkins and keats
oliver, dillard, whitman 
meant about you

poems i've read for decades now
ring truest sounds far above noise,
enliven a language that goes beyond
words framed only by sky

it is the far more companioned thing to
converse with the quiet and connect
to what they already knew and patiently
waited for me to grasp, and am grasping still

could this be why thoreau went into the woods
and what it might mean when owls call forth and back
or how it is that i can be more myself
when in fixed gaze with a hummingbird?

wind through varied leaves sings different songs
these not-as-silent-as-i-once-thought trees
are witnesses communing with me if i let them
a cause to welcome like a puppy's lick asking
for nothing in return but to say i am here
just now and so are you

wordsworth and his daffodils, dickinson's
feathered wings, they dress me in more finery than
imagination dares; and i answer by dancing
in such golden thread count

as can be woven by understanding,
pieced together with hope

3.24.16
ls


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

lightening my load

in the quadrants of learning we go from not knowing that we don't know something (unconscious unskilled) to knowing what we don't know (conscious unskilled) and hopefully to mastery of knowing something new and consequently not having to think about it all the time (unconscious skilled).

it's like this for me in the realm of listening.  before this weekend, i thought i wasn't a good listener. and, while this is a life-long pursuit, what i realized is that it's because i am always so highly attuned and listening at many levels simultaneously (to others, God, myself, nature, ideas...) sometimes it's that i don't know what to do with all that i'm hearing!

whether it was from the culture i was raised in, pressure from without or pressure from within, i always felt i had to do something with what i heard:  teach, give advice, solve, or encourage.  in short, it was like a game of hot potato and the clock was ticking down on me having to come up with something brilliant or spiritual and toss it back quickly already! 

so, you could say i was carrying around some extra pounds in this arena that just peeled right off when i realized i don't have to use many if any words (my life and love language revolves around words) the gift of my presence might be all that's required (exhale!).  if words are invited, i can reflect what i'm hearing, share a noticing or wonder and trust the person to be the expert on their own journey.  if i am able to help shine some light on something or word something in a way that they make a new connection for themselves, so much the better, but the pressure's off and i can't tell you how good that feels!

so in place of "hot potato" a more fitting image for me is maybe a gentle egg toss, unforced and replete with the rhythms of grace.  which reminds me that it's almost Easter.  this season, how might life invite you to lighten both your perceived (demands we place on ourselves) vs. actual (the real things we need to attend to) load?  maybe even just recognizing the difference between the two is a place to start lightening our souls.

what's in my book pile

i couldn't stop reading patrice vecchione's book "step into nature:  nurturing imagination and spirit in everyday life". i didn't go looking for it, rather it quite literally came off the shelf at me. 

in it she asks nuanced questions along the way, straight from her own walks and art, that i found refreshing.  she also includes snippets of poems and thoughts by everyone from denise levertov and henry david thoreau to annie dillard and john keats.  it seems to me she is not only well-read, but well-lived and has very much alive stories to share that come out of these observations and experiences. 

my stack also includes art-photo books "new ceramic surface design" by molly hatch and "the french-inspired home" by kaari meng.  i enjoy looking at these with coffee first thing in the morning when my imagination is fresh and clear.

and novels "the song of hartgrove hall" by natasha solomons, "the sound of paper" by julia cameron and "curious:  the desire to know and why your future depends on it" by ian leslie.

that ought to keep me out of trouble for at least a couple of days!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

adventure is (in here!)

my friend and i love to say, "adventure is out there!" to each other (as quoting from the movie "up").  it's spring break and adventure is also right here right now depending on how we view it.

two days ago, taking advantage of our 72 hours of sun, for example, i rode my bike to work.  i held the ordinary day loosely and ended up sitting with said friend on her front patio, iced drinks in hand (and fleece blankets on our laps) welcoming spring!  this made her neighbors smile.

the next day?  10 miles of kayaking and a stop at the "firehouse" restaurant to warm up next to the brick oven for cauliflower & lemon creme fresh (now that is a party in your mouth!), could-be-in-italy pizza and decaf w/ chocolate pot au creme for dessert. we seized the day and were among the only boaters on the willamette river for our first paddle of the season.

yesterday i took a class in how to companion people on their journeys by intentional three-way listening.  8 ladies, a gorgeous home with a view and quality content. it was a shared adventure of learning, trying, practicing, failing and trying some more.  incredibly humbling, it also brought new awareness and skill confidence to the surface.  sure, it didn't answer the question, "where are you going for spring vacation?" and it wasn't cabo, but it was an amazing journey nonetheless.

and now, i dog sit.  it's a vacation to pack up your belongings and move into someone else's home. it's different, which gives you a fresh perspective.  new street, new neighbors, new ways of getting around as you listen for the little pet's needs and rhythm (how simple and great to be a dog).

so, wherever you find yourself this week, happy palm sunday and good adventures to you from the inside out!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

the walk

The Walk
In Memory of Hubert Thornberg

      He folded the handkerchief, put it in the breast pocket of his suit jacket, removed it, smoothed and refolded it before putting it back in and patting it twice slowly with his right hand. Surveying himself in the hallway mirror he said, to no one in particular, "I'm going for my walk."
      Singularly unremarkable in looks save for the defining handkerchief, which he insisted upon wearing even to buy milk at the corner market, Carlyle M. Arnold (the M didn't stand for anything that he knew of, it was just M) lived what some would call a quiet life. Apart from cursing the backyard moles or turning up his grammophone to listen to Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 (the specific recording of Lorin Maazel directing the Vienna Philharmonic) it was relatively serene.
      A paradox, he held himself with the carriage and upbringing of royalty and yet was approachable by anyone. His tenure as head of the English Department had evolved from positions of power to those of more gradual influence now that he was living his encore years as he liked to phrase it. He was neither daft nor simple of mind and therefore had nothing to prove, finding he rather liked having time for reciting poetry to the cadence of his steps.
      Incidentally, he felt he finally embodied what he had taught from the text of t.s. eliot's "lovesong of j. alfred prufrock" for so many years; the questions "shall i part my hair behind or wear my trousers rolled? do i dare to eat a peach and thus disturb the universe?" Yes, as a man whose surname and first name could be interchanged with equal effectiveness, he found a certain ease with holding apparent opposites in tension. He knew that an action, no matter how small, could alter the world in unspeakable ways. He also knew, and felt in his bones, what comfort a healthy dose of insignificance could bring as he closed his newly whitewashed door and headed down the lane.
      Just shy of April, the sun played a near-constant game of hide and seek with the clouds as robins fed on worms brought out by the rains. Carlyle laughed through his teeth, which came out more like a low whistle, at what he must look like: another old man wandering off. He marveled at the amount of pilgrimages and books about people who walked. His daughter often emailed him The New York Times bestseller list and he couldn't help noticing it replete with stories of women walking the Pacific Crest Trail by themselves and spiritual seekers in Spain who braved El Camino; not to mention all the fiction novels about housewives who ran away from their perceived domestic drudgeries, another widowers tale of chasing after lost love or old men with dementia who escaped from care homes undetected. He was none of these. He was Carlyle The Bulb Man and he was walking.
     As he rounded the corner by the city park, he reached into his pocket for a bulb, grabbed a trowel from his other pocket and began to dig. Covering the tuber with dirt, he patted it down with the back of the trowel, "Daffodil, Narcissus", he whispered, as if not to disturb it, just before the mist turned to showers.
      Picking up his stride, his leather oxfords clapping on the sidewalk, he passed the library steps where a ruddy-faced boy sat reading Robinson Crusoe. It looked like the very same copy he had donated after their children had grown and moved away. "Good day," he said to the boy who only eyed him with suspicion as if to start, "I might talk to you if you weren't a stranger..." having no idea that the chocolate stain on page 34 was a direct result of Carlyle letting his son have ice cream in bed "just this once" back in 1987 (oh, how well he knew the secondary stories books could tell!)
     Just beyond the boy small daffodils were still in bloom. "Tete-a-tete", these were the fragrant kind, the French meaning "head to head" for when people are having a good conversation. Carlyle had planted those there because they reminded him of the ladies at rotary lunches who all talked at the same time, laughing themselves into hysteria while dabbing at their eyes with fashionable kleenex.
      Far from being annoyed by others' chatter, he was amused by it. It was the reason he could be content with such a solid and routine existence. He enjoyed living vicariously through the lives of young mothers, college students, businessmen and baristas, each with their own personal dramas and ruffled surface waters. Ducking beneath the awning of a local frame shop, his oxfords were nearly run over by the wheels of a stroller. Traveling up from his shoes to her face, his eyes noted it was the woman he and his wife had taken in, the one who had been homeless and was now making a life for herself working as a florist. He didn't often tell these stories, but Carlyle's life was replete with little things. The seemingly insignificant details that, like a one degree change, can alter the trajectory of a satellite orbit, a life.
      It wasn't all books, barbecues and bliss as he liked to say, in small town life. The owner of the hardware store still hadn't forgiven Carlyle for marrying Vivienne, though the jealousy sealed itself into a slow and steady--though still pressurized like peaches canned in summer but less sweet--understanding augmented by monosyllables (on the owner's part, Carlyle preferred to speak in complete sentences) over the occasional shared cups of black coffee.
      And there were the building zone wars as they watched fields and orchards turned into low-income housing. There was the time, he laughed to himself, that he wasn't above sneaking out at night to rescue an entire field of bulbs he had planted on subsequent walks over the years. There he had been, wearing black, head-lamp and all, digging them up surreptitiously before the bull dozers could only to replant them by moonlight several weeks later in front of new tenant's homes to give them hope. "All in a row—milagro!" exhuded one neighbor whom he knew to be an immigrant. He laughed the whistle through his teeth and waved. "Milagro!" shrugging his shoulders at the miracle as if he had no idea how the welcoming blooms came to be.
      The walk had variety depending on the season. Sometimes it was tulips or dahlias he carried in his pocket. Or hyacinths. Irises on special occasions. Other wind-beaten days he had to hold down his tweed jacket flaps to keep the acorns from flying out. (In the land use battles, he preferred the term conscientious objection over passive aggression, replanting one oak tree at a time. This, he declared, would be his act of civil disobedience.)
      Long-time residents knew to expect Carlyle. And he, them. (The pit-bull on Ash Street was a relatively new adventure.) Sometimes, if he timed his walk down Orchard Avenue just right, Mrs. Montgomery would have him in for fresh-made pie.  They all kept their rhythms like icons at Lent. (Not that he considered himself particularly religious about anything besides gardening, he just liked the analogy.) The bakery would often comp him a day-old sweet roll and in return he would keep them stocked with petals for cake tops before picking up some coffee "grounds for the garden" as the bags were labeled. "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" he would say to them, quoting eliot again, before taking his leave. For all the beauty of their town, no one knew who spread and tended the bulbs.
      And so it was that upon reentering the white door of their the tidy house on the lane, Carlyle M. Arnold of singularly brilliant pedigree and near-daily anonymity, would hang his hat next to the framed painting of Frederick Walker's "The Plough" (Vivienne was partial to it) clean his trowel, set it by a vase of fresh flowers and contemplate his next walk.

Monday, March 7, 2016

lenten offerings

space

a thin space, here
between body and spirit
and, feeding both, just
know you are remembered
by the soft spring earth
and by my every
footfall


water

is it the water in me that
calls out to the ocean?
makes for thirsty rhythms
and desire to be swallowed
by something bigger than
myself

salt

it is both nothing and
everything
that makes my eyes leak,
for all that matters and
yet doesn't but mostly
for the places in
between

air

breathing out you set us
in motion
breathing in to dwell
here
exhaled to take our place
inhaled air becoming
breath


--paintings and poems
3.7.16 ls

of martians and butlers

what do martians and butlers have in common? more than you might think...if you have watched matt damon star in "the martian" you know that he has to use grit, perseverance, training and positivity to figure out how to survive on mars after being accidentally left behind by his crew.

and, if you've watched the season finale to downton abbey (this is a stretch of a transition, i'll grant you that) you know that the lead butler, carson, has to do the same in the face of changing times.  well done, crew!  i must say i am sad to see them go. 

the creators of downton wrote such multi-faceted and dynamic characters, not to mention weaving all the story lines together.  as the viewer, you already know the facets other characters have yet to learn, which makes for dramatic irony, sparring dialogue and just plain fun british style which, to some, is like life on another planet i'm quite sure.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

when breath becomes air

this book is beautiful because paul kalanithi's life was beautiful.  a renowned and highly successful neurosurgeon, paul went from being on the doctor side of healthcare to the side of the patient as a young, married 36 year-old suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer.

why i can recommend this memoir so highly is because it is all about living.  it is rich with an uncommon empathy that is able to slice well beyond knowlege, through suffering and into eternal things to reveal pure gold.  it is uplifting, even poetic because of paul's rich grounding in and love of literature.

the title alone gave me pause.  "yes", i thought, "when does breath become air and air become breath?"

it avoids cliches and over-sentimentality while chronicling the life of a man driven to understand the science of our minds and brains who was truly devoted to living with meaning and saw all of his patients as people first and foremost.

his words are like having a conversation where he invites you to reflect on your own life and borrow his courage.  his integrated language development, starting as a ten year-old who read voraciously, translates into a dialogue for anyone alive who wants to live even more fully.