Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wild Geese and Art Farm

    I dreamed of wild geese. Canadian Geese, to be precise. A pair, in a partially flooded field. I have no idea what it might mean. In Tai Chi there is a movement called flying wild goose, or it can be flying redtailed hawk, depending on which animal you resonate with. I had always thought it would be the hawk. These days though, I realize that maybe it is the wild goose. The goose is family oriented, very loyal, and a creature of habit. They are protective of their young and their territory.
    These days I am much more family focused than I have been. Family time is more important to me than anything. I spend what time I can with my grandchildren. I have been able to spend a lot of time this past year with my mother and aunt as we have worked to get my grandparents' property cleaned up and sold.
    Speaking of which, today was the last day that the family place is still the family's. By this time tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, the property will change hands. I have spent three days this last week making trips out there to help with final cleaning. Today was the last time I will walk the property and soak up the vibe of my history. It is a sad day for me. I am grieving quietly for the loss of a place that was ore than mere property. It is the end of an era. The Art Farm is now just a part of my past, my history, memories of childhood.
    Maybe this is why I dreamed of wild geese? Family, yet transitory. The place does not make the family, since we all migrate from place to place throughout our lives. Family is not a place, it is a place in our soul. No matter where we go, as long as we have a soul, we have our family. But I will still miss the Art Farm.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reconnection

    There is no doubt that I am at my most creative when I am at my darkest. I know this is true for most creative people. Pain, anguish, mania, and anger feed creative energy. The birthing process is painful, bloody, and exhausting. The closer I get to finding mental and spiritual clarity, the more difficult it is to find those brilliant bursts of mania fueled scribbles. Those moments when the words flow at lightening speed, when my fingers can barely keep pace. I look back on my writing from several years ago an am frankly amazed at the gush of witticism that spewed forth from my brain. I would not go back to that mindset if you paid me though. I had plunged into an abyss, writing was very often my lifeline to the light.
     My Grandmother was a brilliant and prolific painter. After her death we were preparing for a sale and showing of her work. I mentioned to my Mom that the volume of work was staggering. My Mom replied, "Because there was a lot of anger there." We hate to think of our beloved, benevolent, serene elders in such a light. But you can see it in her paintings if you look; the bold brush work, deep dark colors, red predominant. Later in life she did a series of fantastic abstract women. For my Grandmother maybe was a lifetime of feeling caged by her generation, and shackled to aspects of life that were too banal. Or that she got her start later in life. But that is sheer speculation on my part. I do not say any of this to disparage her, or anyone else. It is just a fact, and a common truth among artists. Creativity so often comes from suffering.
    Now, my dilemma is to find a way to create from a place of peace and calm, instead of turbulence and anxiety. A year ago I came to the realization that I needed to work towards harmony and a spiritual reconnection within myself. I wrote a list of list of Needs. Top on the list were: Self Reliance; Independence; Solitude; Spiritual Reconnect; Harmony; Health; To Write. A simple list, but not so simple an achievement. But I move closer with the passing of time. I keep these thoughts at the forefront of my actions. I think on what I am doing, where I am, where I am going, and if it is moving me towards my Needs. With this comes the need to pay the Piper, the loss of my Mania and Melancholy that has been such a source of energy for me. I have to find a way to tap into alternate, healthy energy sources so I can feed my fire without burning myself into an empty hull.
    The price of creation can be high. But I know there is a way to let that payment feed back into my spirit. I just have to find it and tap into it. That is my path. That is the way I must follow. I will follow the light, and let it feed my spirit.

Safe Haven

    I avoid writing about being alone. I think about it quite a bit, but steer clear of putting the words in print. Don't get me wrong, I am rarely ever lonely. Once in a while, for maybe an evening I will regret not having someone in the house with me, in my bed, there for breakfast. But the feeling is fleeting.
    When I think of being alone, it is in a pragmatic way. The thought that I might be alone the rest of my days, while a tad unnerving, isn't depressing. Instead it is more about planning for my future and how I will manage when I am older. I think that is a driving force behind people wanting to be in relationships as they get older; they do not want to grow old alone. Many people are afraid of being alone. I watch my mother, who is 75 and single for almost half her life, go about her independent life, and I sometimes wish she had a partner to help her at least with the heavy lifting. But she is happy, and loves her life. So who am I to wish otherwise for her? I watch her and see myself in 20 years: independent, happy, strong, assured. Then I look at the ten years after that and know that at some point she will come to live with me.
    Where does this train of thought lead? That I need to be working towards turning my little corner of the world into something more akin to a commune. I used to joke about it, and some friends will remember the term "Women's Country." I have espoused the notion of a piece of land, large enough to support multiple small cabins, with one large community building, a community garden, shared responsibilities among a small, tight knit group of friends (most likely single women). This has been a fantasy of mine for most of my life. It has evolved from an idea of an artist commune to something more practical. Now, I look at my little piece of land and know just how much more I could do with it.
    The building of The Fort was the first step. My 200 square foot studio space that I created from a shabby storage shed. It lit a fire under me to build a second space, a cabin or guest house. I loathe to say the over-used term "Tiny House" but that is what it would be. I have loved small, single room spaces for my entire life. Three decades ago I clipped an article from Country Living magazine that had a photo spread on several turn of the century single room cabins. Glorious little homes, with wood stoves, porches, ship-lap siding, and the architectural stylings of an 1890's farmhouse. I craved one with every fiber of my being. But the idea of raising a family in something so small dimmed the fire for the time being. I never stopped looking at small structures. From A-frame ski retreats to tiny log cabins to Victorian wash houses and maid's quarters, they are all fascinating to me.
    Okay, I am rambling. Back to the gist of today's pondering. Now, having scaled my idea of a commune back a notch or two, with the knowledge that I will not likely ever own a large tract of land, I look at my own property. True, it is just under half an acre. But a hell of a lot can be done on half an acre. The spot I have chosen for the new micro house is by the apple trees. It is a clear, level stretch of ground that is not really in use for anything but shady lawn and a place to hang my hammock in the summer. It is the same area I will build my brick bread and pizza oven this summer. A guest house, or my own retreat. I have thought it could be my own home while I let someone else rent my house, or a place for a kindred spirit to share a Fried Green Tomatoes friendship.
     With a bit more living space, a bit less clutter, and a lot more specific use of land for planting, I am slowly progressing towards my own commune. Start small and build. Add more grape vines, fruit trees, berries, a small wind turbine, a greenhouse, and potting shed.
    I may remain single the rest of my days, if I so choose. But I will make my home my safe haven.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Annual Birthday Assessment

    This is intended as my birthday post, I'm a wee bit late, as I seem to be time warping this month, and am amazed that February is more than half over already. About a decade ago, I've lost track of exactly when, I made a vow to myself that every year on my birthday I would be healthier than I was the previous year. The more years that pass, the more difficult this becomes. Not because I am losing the desire, or slacking, or throwing in the towel. To the contrary, it is because I am damned healthy, and the fitter I get, the smaller the gains are. I keep tweaking my life and lifestyle, dialing it in, seeking perfection, always aiming high.
    I will start with the physical aspects. This year one of the easiest, most visible gains has been in the swimming pool. I know, it just goes to show what a jock I am. I have been increasing my swim fitness to a level higher than it was at my peak for the 5k swim of my long triathlon. I'm easily swimming 2+ miles every time I am at the pool, which is at least 3 times a week. On my birthday I cut it short, aiming for 1-1/2 miles so I could get to dinner with my boys and their families. I swam that 1-1/2 at a goodly pace, Olympic distance Tri pace, and it felt good. As I climbed out of the pool I realized that 1-1/2 miles = 54 laps, on my 54th birthday. Accidental though it was it seemed appropriate. Today I hit the pool and went for steady rate distance, getting in 100 laps in 1 hour 40 minutes. Not too shabby. One goal this year is to swim the Portland Bridge Swim: 11 miles down the Willamette River. I have a lot of training to do. One benefit is that swimming hard lets me eat damned near as much as I want.
    I am being consistent with my triathlon training, despite not being able to run for a while due to injuries, and what seems to be the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in several joints in my feet (those bastards hurt like hell, by the way). But, I am religiously keeping up with strength training and plyometrics, in conjunction with cycling workouts at least 5 times a week. My current weight is hovering around 162, which has been my happy weight now for almost 2 years. Oddly, I am at the same weight I was in highschool. at 5'10" this gives me a BMI of 23, which is considered "normal." One of the few times I like being called normal.
    I will say, this last year my arthritis has reared its ugly head more and more. Hands, elbows, ankles, and feet being the most noticeable targets. I still avoid pain meds for the most part, just popping the rare Nsaid if something is really hurting. I notice that there is a weird ache that lives in the long bones of my arms, especially along the full length of the ulna. The same weird ache lives along both collar bones and likes to remind me of it when I swim. I do look at other people and wonder what it would be like to live relatively pain-free. But it is a reminder of a life well lived, I think. And as long as I can manage it with nutrition and exercise I plan on doing what I do until I'm 100 or so.
    One key in much of what I have been yammering about has been the continual tweaking of my diet. Honestly, I hate the word "diet" as it always conjures up images of proscribed foods and gimmicky fads. I have been vegetarian now for about 2 years. In the few years before that I was rarely eating meat. I am mostly dairy free, cheese being the only exception. I rarely eat wheat, avoid all processed foods, and consider high fructose corn syrup to be the devil incarnate. My original reasons for giving up wheat and meat was quite simply to attempt to get my joint inflammation under control. It seems to help, and it has rid me of the chronic heartburn I had for 20 years.
   The one thing that has me most pleased this year is that I am free of all prescription meds. I had kicked the anti-depressants to the curb over a year ago, but was still reliant on a sleep aid. Honestly, I think this is the best sign of continued great health that I could have. Yes, being fit, strong, slender, and might I say, sexy, is all good an well, but feeling of sound mind is far better. It is a gift to feel stable, relaxed, and confident. Of course there are days when I let the lunatic out into the sunlight, but now she is more of a Muse, a companion, and half of the balance of light and dark, Yin and Yang.
    This last year I have built some cool shit, had some fun, damn near wrecked myself on a trail run, gimped through the summer, enjoyed my life as it is, made plans to keep increasing the pleasure of my life, added to the value of my home, set goals both small and large. I have built a solid foundation of health and wellness in all aspects of my life, and I aim to keep building, bit by bit. I can only imagine where I will be this time next year.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Successful?

"The Planet does not need more successful people. The Planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, story tellers, and lovers of all kinds." ~Dalai Lama~

    I have come to the realization that "successful" is a relative term. I have known it for a long time, but only recently been able to come to terms with it within my own life. College? Career? Wealth? The big house, fancy car, designer wardrobe? In our material world of conspicuous consumption, where degrees, career, and wealth are worn like a badge of honor, and the key to the hanging with the popular kids, I shy from these as if they were a venomous snake.
    It hasn't always been the case. There have been many times that I felt the tug of envy and desire. Thinking how much easier life would be if money was never an issue. Not feeling a twinge of embarrassment at my beat-up, third hand car when parked next to the latest and greatest shiny new thing. Seeing the big house, with tidy yard, and knowing that the residents never have to crawl under their own home to try and fix a leaky pipe. They just hire a plumber, and money is no object.
    A few years back, at a cocktail party of all things, I was asked several times, "So, what is your degree in?" And had to fight the desire to punch them in the face and say, "Hard knocks." I left feeling angry, bitter, resentful, and ashamed that it seemed so important to this room full of people, all with degrees and "successful" careers by the way, what university I did or did not attend, and what I had decided to be when I grew up. At that moment it made me feel as if I was seen as trying to move into a social sphere in which I did not belong. Or as I put it at the time, "A blue collar girl in a white collar world... the girl from the wrong side of the tracks." In retrospect, I choose to think that my obvious intelligence and wit made them assume that I had a high level of what they would consider a proper education. Ha ha. Fooled them. I am just naturally wicked smart and hilariously funny. Now I can see it. Now I don't care that I don't have a degree, or what would be considered a proper career. Now I appreciate my vast and weird knowledge, my intuition, and natural gifts.
    I won't lie, I still feel the pressure of lack of funds, frequently. But instead of envy when I see that shiny, big car I feel the smug satisfaction of my fuel efficient, hippie chick, old Honda Civic with the half-Ironman sticker and uber-geeky bumper sticker. When I see the big house I think "big mortgage," and feel pride in my handyman skills and low monthly payment. I see the wealth in the stacks of reclaimed and salvaged building materials in my yard.
    I am content with my life, as atypical and anti-establishment as it is. I am not defined by what so many see as "success." I am not a career, wealth, college degree. I create with my mind, build with my hands, heal with my heart. I am a Dreamer, Artist, Writer, Empath, Healer, Peacemaker. Mother, Grandmother, Treehugging Hippiechick Hedgewitch. We need more people in the world that understand the true meaning of Success.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Quirks

    I have a secret to share. It is an interesting quirk about my winter weirdness. Every winter I develop some random OCD issue. Something I am never really aware of until it has been going on for several months. Four years back it was taking my own bags to the grocery store. I would have a full on meltdown, tear inducing anxiety attack if I didn't have my own bags. That was a particularly difficult winter, by the way. One winter it was an aversion to water.
    This year it is nothing quite so dramatic. I have a shirt, an old shirt, one of my favorite cold weather race shirts. It has developed into somewhat of a security blanket it would seem. I sleep in it every night. I wear it most days that I am not at work. I am wearing it right now. I make sure to wash it when I am working out, so I can be distracted from the fact that I don't have The Shirt on. It is a winter wear Champion brand running shirt. Silky, not too snug but form fitting, has the little thumb holes on the extra long sleeves. It doesn't have tags, I make no secret that I cut the tags out of all my clothes, but this shirt never had them to begin with. I paid about $5 for it at Value Village 4 years ago or so, and have looked for another every since. I love this shirt. It is very often the base layer under whatever other shirt I decide to wear.  I don't wear it to work very often, but I put it on as soon as I get home. I pack it in my swim bag so I can slip into it after a swim. I don't wear it for workouts, but as soon as I am done I am snuggled back into the shirt. It is like a cocoon, or armor. It shields me from discomfort, anxiety, the cold. It is this winter's OCD focus. Not bad, compared to past winters.
    I make no secret that I am a creature of habit. Habits so strong that they border on compulsion. I pack the same thing for lunch nearly every day that I work, and have done so for years. The foods have changed over the years since my dietary restrictions and needs have changed as well. I eat a well rounded diet, but it tends to take the form of very specific foods. Every night I drink a cup of herbal tea. I have the same routine every morning and every night, almost to a tee. I always put on my left sock and left shoe first. Always. I put in my left earring first, and if I don't I can't manage to get the right one into the hole.
    I have learned to make habit work for me in some areas. Especially in fitness and nutrition. I workout largely because it is a deeply ingrained habit. I have worked out regularly in one form or another, nearly every day for the last 20 years. The older I get, the stronger my habits become. I think that if I were ever to develop dementia I would continue on with my habits because my body is so tied to them it doesn't need my brain very much.
    So, habit or obsession. Quirk or compulsion. Every winter the need is a bit stronger and deeper. The more I understand myself the more I can look at it with humor, and the less dramatic it all seems. For this winter I have my favorite shirt, like Linus with his blanket, that keeps me sheltered from the darkness of winter. I love my shirt.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lose My Mind, Just A Little

    It is getting close to that time of year when I start to lose my mind, just a little. Okay, more than a little. It usually strikes about mid-February. I am not sure if it is because that is when my birthday is, or Valentine's Day, both of which have reminded me for a very long time that I am facing life alone. Maybe it is because we are in the depths of winter, and still have months left before the rains cease and the sun returns. Most of the year, my aloneness doesn't bother me, I am used to it, even revel in it. But there is something about this time of year when the crazy starts. Cabin fever? Spring fever? I don't know. I just know it is also when I am most likely to feel predatory and reckless. I begin to feel like my skin doesn't fit. I am twitchy, restless, moody. I want to hide, and yet want to prowl the streets. I look at everyone who passes me and mentally categorize them as predator or prey. I feel like a wolf among sheep.
    This is when my Demons will come out to play, but we understand each other so well that it is more visitation and invasion. I talk with them, chastising and teasing. Let them make me cry, vent, and rage, just a little. Then chase them back to the shadows where they wait for our next playdate.
    Now is when I feel like I am resting up for the inevitable mania that will hit. I am sleeping 10 hours a night whenever I can. I want to eat, storing up energy for later. It is tough, feeling so tired now, yet knowing what is to come.
    Year after year this has been my life. At least 20 years. It has only been the last few years that I have really come to understand what is happening, what is coming, and how to get to the other side relatively unscathed. For the second year in a row I am facing it unmedicated, trusting my healthy lifestyle, and my hard won understanding of myself to get me through to spring.
    The last two years have led me down some fun and interesting paths. I have let myself play loose and free, let my dark side come out into the light. It has been entertaining and educational, without a doubt. This year I may very well go down a similar path. Let my inner demon out to play, have some fun, break a few hearts. Why not? Life is about experience, life is about play, life is about exploration and pushing boundaries. Life is about losing your mind and letting it run wild and free now and then. It will come back, soon enough, and likely better off for an unbridled romp through the wild.