Thursday, November 30, 2017

Looking For The Positive

    So much going on in the world is massively stressful right now. The news makes my head want to explode: North Korea; Russian hacking; Tax Reform (the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, same shit, different day); the 45th president making cringe-worthy tweets and unscripted remarks on a daily basis; the systematic dismantling of safeguards in our government that protect education, the environment, personal rights; hate crimes on the rise; the continual uncovering of more of the pervasive sexual harassment that has been a staple diet for any woman working in a male dominated workforce; and on and on and on. I won't even get into the aspects of my personal life that are cause for an aneurysm. We are going through tough times.
    Today at work, I was so tired. So tired that I started weeping while grooving to "Under Pressure," by Bowie and Freddie Mercury. I wasn't sure if the tears were for the loss of Bowie last year, and Freddie far too soon. Or if I was just tired. Or too stressed by, well, everything. So, being the eternal optimist, I made myself divert my thoughts to search for positives to hold like a flickering light against the darkness. This is where my brain went:
    Bro Love. Yeah. I dig that it has become acceptable for men to show love and affection for each other. "Love you, bro," is the new "See you later." And it won't garner snarky comments alluding to someone's sexual preference. Men can hug. Not that awkward one armed, pat on the back, but don't allow any torso contact... or, gods forbid, and incidental bump of hips *gasp*. Guys can give each other solid, affectionate hugs. Bro Love. Bromance. Call it what you will. But as the mother of two grown sons, and a passel of other young men in my tribe, it is a heartwarming thing to see.
    Less mortification over bodily functions. Especially inadvertent bodily functions that tend to occur during strenuous athletic endeavors. It is almost a point of pride, when lifting heavy, to say, "Oh my god, I peed myself a little." Honestly, I have always said, "Pee before you lift heavy." (also, "Pee before you put on armor," but that was almost another life). And Google, "why does running make me poop," and you will get a litany of hilariously horrifying tales of rebellious digestive systems. We are finally allowed (mostly) to have our bodies do what bodies do without feeling a life sentence of shame. Okay, kids may not have gotten this message, but at least adult athletes have it figured out.
    Next on the list: Internet access to my local library system. This may seem like a simple thing, but to the time crunched who lives in an area where each library branch is relatively small, and not on my direct route home, having access to the county's file index in all its Dewey Decimal glory is fantastic. I can browse to my heart's content in the comfort of my living room, place my choices on hold, designate where I want to pick them up, and ta-da, in a few days I can pick everything up in a matter of a few minutes. Then I am on my merry way. Due date approaching? No problemo. I can log into my account and renew with the click of a mouse. It is truly an amazing luxury.
     My fat tire fixie bicycle. I know, I've probably talked this one to death with my friends. But I really love this bike. And you want to know why? The exercise? No (but, I do like the workout). I love this bike because it brings back the joy I used to get on my bike when I was a kid, and when I was a bicycle delivery person in downtown Portland when I was 20. It is pure, unadulterated fun. It makes me grin like an idiot and make derpy faces. I laugh when I plow through puddles. I take it down onto the packed river rock along the bank of the Willamette River. I ride through parks, dodging the root bulged pavement. I ride dirt paths. The wind in my face, pedaling for all I am worth, for no other reason than the sheer joy of it. And I fantasize about doing some epic adventure on this slow, fat tire bike, like ride the Trans-America Trail: from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. Okay, that would be almost impossible on a single speed bike, but the thought of it is kinda groovy.
     I think it is great that more adults are realizing that it is totally cool to color with crayons. I've never turned my back on this particular joy, but a lot of people "grew up."
     Blanket Forts. Legos. My dog Hugo. Fun music. There are a hundred things, little things, that I need to remember when the world seems dark and hopeless. Because it is neither, dark nor hopeless.
    As Gandalf observed, "Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small and everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."


Sunday, November 12, 2017


    As much as I love my solitude, of which there has been little of lately, there are times when I get the strong feeling that I need to belong to something. Be a part of the greater scheme of things, somehow. I know, I am an integral part here and there; my Fire Station, my family, my friends. My life is full. Overly full at times. But nights like tonight, as it is nearing midnight, and I am listening to music that has various emotional triggers for me, I feel alone in the world. Alone with a primal need to find a tribe. Yes, I have my family, and that is more than most people could ever hope for. My loving and loved family that I adore and who adore me. But there is still a need, an ache, a persistent itch to find my place in something that can be physically and emotionally fulfilling on a different level. It is a vague feeling, almost indefinable. I feel it like an itch just under the skin, a buzzing behind my eyelids, a humming in my skull. I don't know what it is, or how to find it.
     I know for a few years it was kept at bay with racing events, training, and life in general. But racing is a solitary endeavor, really. Most often I go to events alone, race alone, cross the finish line with no one waiting for me, chat with a few strangers, and then head for home. Yes, it makes me happy, but it isn't what I am looking for. But how do I know what I am looking for when I don't know what I am looking for? Yeah. It is a conundrum.
    And it is obvious by the randomness of these ramblings that it is midnight, and it was a long day. I am tired, my eyes are dry and bleery. And I really need to get to sleep. One more song though. Right now it is the instrumental "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers. It is a happy making song, with no melancholy lyrics to make me feel more alone. I will finish up with Dancing in the Moonlight because it always makes me happy. Even though I would love to belong to a group that would happily dance in the moonlight with me, instead of my usual Manic Dance Party for One. Ah well, still rambling and verging on the incoherent now.
    I will search, and hopefully find some place where I fit. A tribe. Or not. I admit, it has been a lifelong search that hasn't really had good results. Maybe I will wake up in the morning wondering what the hell was such a big deal. I have my tribe: my family, my Fire Station (my battalion chief admits that the engine is mine now), my friends. I am not alone. But for tonight it is just me and the dog, and music to ward off the melancholy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Shift in The Weather

    The shift in the weather, though inevitable, and not unexpected, always stirs up something deep inside of me. An unrest. A sense of urgency with a hint of desperation and dread. The first heavy rain of September, heralding the death of Summer. Already I feel an itch of cabin fever, a tickling of stir crazy. And it is only the second day of rain.
    I also know that the rain will be over in a day or so, and we will be blessed with dry weather, sunshine, but cooler temps. Again, it is inevitable. Yesterday I put away tools, covered bags of concrete, dug potatoes, and mowed the lawn, all with an eye towards the gathering clouds and my hair whipping in the gusty pre-storm winds. Then the rains came and I came indoors and baked bread. Today I ran in the rain.
    And now I sit, pecking away on the keyboard while a tempest presses against the inside of my ribcage. It is a peculiar feeling, one I am all too familiar with. I tried to describe it to my Mom, with dubious success. I feel an inner pressure, maybe I am a human barometer? An inner pressure to be going, doing, chasing, hiking, running, cycling, something, anything, anything other than sitting indoors while the rain beats against the windows. I have the overwhelming need to be doing something. But what that something is eludes me. It is an itch that can't be reached. A hunger that is vague and insatiable. It is too much like the feeling of being faced with overwhelming tasks to the point that you become dysfunctional, and all you can do is drink tea and read a book. I have done some of that today; disappear into the pages of a well written yet slightly vacuous novel with a cup of steaming tea at my elbow. I want to, need to, find tasks, line up my winter projects, litter my living room with bicycle parts and knitting and books and drawings. I need to look ahead and plan on how best to prepare my body for next summer's epic adventures while suppressing tears over adventures not yet managed this summer. I still haven't taken my new gear out for river snorkeling. Though I have gotten in some nice hiking and bike riding these last few weeks.
     It is not as if we don't know winter is coming. It comes every year with the inescapability of, well, of the seasons. They do come and go like clockwork. It is not that I dislike rain. I actually enjoy the rain. It is the loss of daylight, the short days and long nights. The darkness. And the cold. I do not like being cold. Cold makes me Sad. Being cold is honestly one of the main triggers for my winter melancholy. Cold makes me Sad. And the cold is coming.
    In my usual attempt to head it off at the pass, so to speak, I am planning my battle strategy. Online shopping is my friend, and winter workout gear is on the way. As are books to help stoke the fires of my training. Every year for the last 15 years, come September I know I have to set myself up for training of some sort. In the past, the early years of understanding, it was making sure my gym membership was ready. Now, it is making sure my living room is ready, with the gear that I need. I add gear every year. This year it is sand bags, a heavier kettlebell, and a weighted pack. Much of this with an eye towards more hiking adventures with my big red dog, Hugo. Some with an eye towards regaining my footing in the world of triathlon and trail running.
    That is all good and well, but it does nothing for my current state of unrest. The buzzing in my veins, the pressure in my chest, the thoughts ricocheting around inside my skull like so many ping-pong balls. Oh my god, maybe I am having a heart attack?!! No, that would be too easy an explanation. Another all too simple explanation would be that I am losing my mind. Again, too easy. No, maybe this is a primal need to make sure that all the crops are in, the food preserved, firewood stacked, wool spun, leaks filled, and blankets mended so we will survive the dark days warm and fed to emerge like a daffodil in the Spring. Maybe it is that simple, the primal need to be prepared for winter, but feeling like I have fallen short. There are still dry, sunny days ahead. A few, anyway. But the Rains are coming.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


    Magic is not elaborate. Magic is not complicated. It is not golden amulets engraved with runes and set with gemstones. It is not ornate altars, intricate spells, convoluted charms, extravagant robes.
    Magic is simplicity. The rainbow colors of a dragonfly's wings. A seed sprouting, growing. Dew bejeweling the grass. A stone polished smooth by the river. Feeling the magic in the sough of the breeze on a quiet summer night. It is as simple as a wish for health and prosperity while stirring the soup.
    It is as complex or simple as you want it to be. For me it is as easy as "I see you," whispered to the full moon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Small Magics

Nearly a month since I last posted. That is not good. It is not as if there were nothing to write about. In fact, quite the opposite. There is so much going on inside my head, and out in the world (which causes more things to bash about inside my skull) that I get overwhelmed with things to write. The best defense against the onslaught would be to write daily, get it out in dribs and drabs, instead of letting it collect until my brain is like a clogged pipe letting nothing through.
   The total flip side of this is that I have been so physically and spiritually focused on my gardens. Honestly. This is the year I am trying to become the gardener and hedgewitch i fantasize that I am. My Mom said my place looks "Like the home of a professional gardener." Okay, it was my Mom that said it, but she is a gardening goddess, and a compliment like that from her made my heart swell.
    Aiming for self-sufficiency on several fronts. I want to be able to have several months where the bulk of my food comes from my own plantings. I want to be able to make a little money at some point with plant sales. I want to have a decent magickal garden, overflowing with flowers and herbs, medicinal as well as magical. And from that magickal garden I want to be able to produce objects with meaning; poppits, pookas, dream pillows, woo bags, balms, tinctures, smudge sticks, charms, dried herbs for spell casting. For myself, and others. I need to bring magic back into the world, my world.
    "... a country on its way to banishing magic altogether. And that would have a very serious effect on the very soul of the country, for a country whose people ceased to believe in magic soon lost much of their ability to Imagine and Dream, and before long they ceased to believe--or hope--for anything."
    So you see, with the current chaos that is swirling around the globe, being manifested by those in charge and those with wealth, we have to be able to have Hope. We have to believe that Light will overcome Darkness in the end. That if we continue to fight the Good Fight, we will prevail.
    I don't expect some great miracle to come along and save us, deliver us from evil. But I believe in the small magics of hearth and home, peace and love, family and friends. I believe that our world is what we make of it, and that it is the seemingly small efforts that will eventually make the difference. If everyone did just one small thing, one small act of kindness, or charity, or peacekeeping, that we could change the world. A bucket or an ocean can be filled one drop at a time. It may seem that we are up against insurmountable odds, but I have to maintain my belief that each of us can make a difference, each in our own small way.
    For me, that small way is to continue to hope, to love, to unite, to heal, to help, in whatever way I can. Part of that, for my sanity and peace, is to create my own magic space, my hermitage, my hedgewitch gardens, my own small magics. To grow for the birds, bees, and butterflies. To create healthy spaces for the myriad of small wild creatures that share my world. To blend wild and cultivated, magical and earthly.  To nourish mind, body and spirit with the greenspace that surrounds me. I moved to the edge of nowhere with the intention of just this. And now, at this point in time and space, it is what seems to consume my thoughts and actions. Finally creating what has been in my imagination all this time. And isn't that, in and of itself, magic?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gardening as Defense Against The Darkness

    There is no denying that the current national and international vibe is stressful and depressing. I can only spend so much energy on freaking out over what I have no control over. So I have turned inward and have been focusing on creating and maintaining my personal environment. The last few months all my spare time and money has been going into adding to my edible landscape. This is the year of the berry. From the beginning I have held a vision in my head of a self-sustaining, productive mini-farm. Each year I have added something new, the first year I went a bit wild and planted a Texas King fig, two Stanley prunes, white Himrod and red Suffolk grapes, lavender, sage, and rosemary. Since then I've added raspberries (with limited success, so far), rhubarb (with even less success), a raised strawberry bed, a Brown Turkey fig, and 3 more apple trees to go with my 3 old trees.
   This year I am making great strides forward. I built 4 raised beds in my front yard, raised to get them above the high water table I have in my front yard, and well prepped since they are going over grass. I have planted 2 Goji berry, 3 Honeyberry, 3 lowbush Cranberry, 5 Gooseberry, a Jostaberry, and a Currant. I also added asparagus, a Brown Mission fig, a hardy Kiwi. and a Red Aronia (aka chokeberry). In the raised beds, since they are prepped and ready and the berries will take time to fill them out, I also planted carrots, sugar snap peas, Haricot Vert bush beans, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, and marigolds (to repel insects).
    In the manic gardening mode I have also managed to wrest my garden area back from the blackberries. I have 6 tomato plants, yellow crookneck squash, yellow zucchini, pole beans, small sugar pumpkins, Yukon Gold potatoes, and sunflowers.
    I am leaning towards the permaculture form of gardening. Weed and grass smothering ground cover, mulch, companion planting (pumpkins with the beans, sunflowers with the squash, and all the intermingled raised beds), and composting. I am building a second hugelkulture (raised bed based on how fallen trees decompose in the forest) and will plant it with perennial herbs in the fall.
    Another aspect I am paying close attention to is my magic herbs. I am starting seeds of Rue Herb-o-Grace, Mugwort, Wormwood, Feverfew, and Chamomile. I will get more seeds to start for fall plantings.
    Getting my hands in the soil, touching the Earth, feeling a Spiritual reconnect that I have been needing for some time. This has been important to me, even more important in the current world clime. I feel grounded and connected. I feel I am doing what I need to do to step further away from dependence on outside forces. I feel I am doing everything I can to counter and combat the negativity that is rampant in our world. The Hedgewitch is rising, I am channeling the wisewoman, the crone, Danu, Gaia.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Note From The Past

   I jot things down. All kinds of things. My desk is littered with notes to self, ideas for projects, workout plans, recipes, reminders, phone numbers, books I want to read. It is a bit obsessive. I finally broke down and started putting things in various journals. I have several with their own more specific contents: Quotes, business ideas and product designs, workouts, sketches, and one for oddities that don't fit any of the other journals.
    The point behind this is that I jot things down on random bits of paper. Today, I was picking up a small avalanche of papers that I had boxed up to burn, because they had too much financial and personal info to just toss in the garbage. Some of these were from a purge from boxes that have moved with me several times, boxes marked, "Misc Stuff From Desk." Yeah, that kind of stuff. Some of it was old, old, old checkbook registers (like 15+ years old), old tax stuff, random bits and bobs. You get the idea. Anyway, one neatly folded piece of paper caught my eye because it had a quote scribbled on the back, "There is much to be Known and above all much to be Loved, be it the turn of the Seasons or the shape of a river pebble." I stuffed it in my pocket because I wanted to transfer it to the journal of quotes (told you, I am a bit obsessive). I don't remember writing this quote down, and was pretty sure it was from a few years back.
    So, I finished with my random chores, made myself a cup of tea, and then remembered the paper I had stuffed in my pocket. I reread the quote, savoring it, and thinking it was a timely and timeless note to self. Then I unfolded the paper it was written on, It was two pages, I glanced at the second page first, just because of how I unfolded it, it was typed, on an actual typewriter, and the first line was "For children, the most important thing is that they are allowed to build a conceptual model of the world that allows them to both understand the world they encounter and cope with the new aspects of the world that do not readily fit their model." My first thought was that it was something from a home-schooling seminar I may have attended. So I looked at the first page. It was a letter to me.
    It was a letter from a friend, an honest-to-god penpal from about 20 years ago. His name was/is Graeme, and he lived/lives in Ayrshire, Scotland. We never met face to face, never talked on the phone, I don't even really remember how or why we started corresponding. But we wrote to each other, via international snail mail, for several years. This was before the internet was very functional, besides he didn't have computer access in his remote farmhouse on the edge of nowhere. Hell, I don't think I had a computer or an email at this point either. Yeah, it was that long ago.
     The letter was long and well written. I remember always being astonished by his intelligence and education, he had a degree in philosophy. He was a mentor. We had met while I was exploring Celtic Druidism, as was he. He had a vast wealth of knowledge of so many things. This particular letter was written shortly before Alban Eilar, the Spring Equinox, probably 22 years ago. Reading it through, I was struck by the topics that were covered, including climate change, family, our mutual struggles with winter depression, and the education of children. It could have been written this year and still been pertinent to my life
     One line, a quote from one of his favorite authors, John Ruskin (we both jot down quotes, you see), was, "There is no wealth but Life."  This, as you may know, has been a driving force behind many of my actions these last few years. The soul deep knowledge that my life is far better spent pursuing what is important to my life, than it is in the pursuit of money, status, or climbing a corporate ladder.
    I'm going to keep this letter, tucked away in one of my journals, as a reminder. As much a reminder of a friend and mentor, who reached out to a stranger halfway around the world, to share ideas, spirituality, and a piece of their life and soul. I had nearly forgotten Graeme, not quite, but nearly. It was a Note from The Past, a voice in the darkness, a reminder that although things change, the important things remain the same. Thank you, Graeme.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Subconscious Nagging Me

    I had a dream last night that a family wanted to order 5 of the stuffed dragons I used to make. And another dream that I was loading my truck with stuff to take to a farmer's market. I am thinking my subconscious mind is trying to drive home a point, I have been wishing for quite a while now that I didn't work on Saturdays. Partially because it keeps me from being able to sign up for any races, partially because Saturdays at work are brutal and stressful, but more and more it is because I am wanting to be able to take various goods to farmer's markets on weekends.
    It gnaws at me that I am chained to an employer. Yes, I like the knowledge that I will get X amount of dollars every month. But I hate that I work so hard to put money into someone else's bank account. And I do work hard, I take my work responsibilities seriously, I strive to keep my team on track and focused. I have never worked so hard to get people to work hard, and it exhausts me physically and mentally. There is no way I could manage to do this 5 days a week, and it makes me feel drained on my days off. It is no secret that I feel I am being seriously underpaid, with no hope for a raise. But I doubt it would be different anywhere else. These days the battle cry for most employers is "Do more for less."  It is the norm these days.
     So, once again, I am struggling with the desire to be self-employed. Hell, if I am going to live like a starving artist, I might as well actually be able to feel like one inside and out. But it always comes down to the fear of needing a certain amount of money to survive, not to lose my house, and pay off my debts. I wish I had the nerve to take that potentially fatal leap and either quit my job, or find one that was more flexible. This will take some consideration. I know one thing that holds me back is my loyalty to a few of my coworkers. I hate the idea of leaving them in a lurch. But g'damn, Don't I need to look after myself and my own health and sanity?
    The time has come to start taking steps towards accumulating an inventory. I am thinking new and used, handmade things for home and garden, maybe some herbs, repurposed miscellany. I have a journal filled with thoughts, ideas, designs. I just need to make myself take the step. So, build an inventory, be prepared, and then find an outlet. Maybe just aim for a few events now and then, to inject a little income as well as start building a name for myself. The Hermit of Marquam needs to take the next step, my subconscious seems to be nagging me.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Doing My Best

    There have been so many things to write about lately. So many thoughts ricocheting around inside my skull. So many things of both great importance and trivial. So many that it overwhelms me and I can't seem to write anything. It is like being faced with such a vast amount of work that I can't manage to do anything but turn my back, pick up a book, and disappear into an alternate reality. There is too much, too many thoughts, an endless flow that keeps me awake at night, and plagues my waking hours. With the current state of the world I wonder that anyone can sleep at all. Are we on the brink of war? The brink of climate change that will surely end the world as we know it? So much, too much. It is all I can do to not lose my mind.
    We are facing dark times, I have no doubt. Our country is in the hands of a lunatic and his puppetmasters, and there is little we can do but sit back and wait to see what fresh hell he can lead us into. We are confronted daily by his atrocious, outlandish behavior, and the continual blunderings of his inept and idiotic staff. It is a daily assault that is slowly numbing us to feelings of outrage, beating us down into a grim feeling of a shell-shocked new reality. We raise our voices against the regime, it is all we can do. We support the groups we can. We protest as best we are able. I can only hope we can hold out long enough to see the regime toppled by their own heavy handed, brutish behaviors, and that right will win over might, Where is Superman, with Truth, Justice, and the American Way?
    Lately, my best form of protest is to continue with the plan of self-sufficiency. I plug away, one day at a time. I plant more edibles, ponder ways to make a living outside of the "American Dream," I look at every alternative I can think of to take me another step further away from dependency, and The Man. I hold onto my dreams with both hands, and fight to not lose hope. Some days this is more difficult than others.
    Surprisingly enough, despite what feel like the gathering of dark forces just over the horizon, I have had fewer issues with melancholy this winter. Yes, the weather has been cold and miserable for far too long. Yes, my financial situation is a bit bleak. Yes, my job is wearing me down bit by bit. Yes, we are teetering on the brink of a global flux. But, despite all this, I have managed, most days, to maintain at least a modicum of my eternal optimism. I think it is largely due to the fact that I am not relying on anyone but myself for my happiness. I am the captain of my fate, the sole hand at the tiller of my ship for one. It keeps me balanced. And at the end of the day I can look at what was accomplished and know it was entirely my own doing. For now, this moment, that is enough. I am doing my best, and that is better than a lot of people can say.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ongoing Ponderings

    An ongoing train of thought/contemplation for me this winter, as well as over the last few years really, is wondering What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. Actually, it is because I don't want to grow up, but I still need to financially support myself. I toy with so many different ideas. Ideas, plans, dreams, schemes, fantasies. My mind goes off on all tangents. Sometimes when I swim my mind launches into some amazing scenarios. Sometimes it is merely what I would like to do with my home and garden, sometimes it is ideas to make money, other times it is closer to the fantasy of being able to be a reclusive artist. I don't know what to do. I feel like time is running out for some routes, since age is definitely a factor for anything requiring lengthy schooling. Other ideas, I look towards my grandmother Pearl, who was an artist right up to the end. What to do? I don't know. I wish I had the courage to just jump. Just go after whatever I want to do and damn the fears of money. But that isn't realistic is it? I do have financial obligations (including back taxes that scare the hell out of me). For now I think I just need to find the motivation to complete projects that are all around me. Little things, in my house, in my garden, in life in general. I need a sponsor.

All Things All At Once

    I feel I have been avoiding writing because I don't want to spend too much time dwelling on all the external forces that are doing their best to make me feel beaten down. But it builds, with the inevitability of a pending storm. Today I feel it looming over me with dark storm clouds that are more oppressive than the ones I see out my window. So much. Some little, some overwhelming. Our current political situation has me constantly on the verge of panic, Fight or Flight, but it is mostly beyond my control. But all adds up to the straws that may break this camel's back.
    My car is dead, from a deep water incident followed by an attempted theft. It is too rainy to work on it with my meager knowledge and I can't afford to have someone else fix it. Thankfully I have my truck, but it has dodgy tail lights and guzzles gas like a parched alcoholic; Work is maxing me out with the ongoing "do more with less, and for less" mentality that is pervasive among most companies these days. I would like to find a different job, but can't until I have more dependable transportation; My dogs are fighting, so they have to be kept separate all the time, cutting into the peace of my home life; The rain isn't stopping, so everything is squishy, muddy, soaked. My plants are drowning and my septic is backing up; It is cold and wet, preventing spring plantings, and keeping my heating bill high and my spirits low; I have back taxes that are coming back to haunt me, with threats of wage garnishment, and I have no money to pay; I have chronic pain that drags me down over time, makes me feel tired and drained, and hampers my wishes to run and train with any intensity; My weight is up a little, and my energy is down a lot. Cause and effect, one way or the other? Metabolism? Hormones? Weather? I think the long, cold winter is the biggest culprit, sapping my will, encouraging hibernation; I am feeling a twinge of loneliness, knowing that a partner would make a lot of these problems have less of an impact, but having little desire to have to conform my life around someone else (yes, I do love my solitary life 95% of the time... it is that other 5%)
    Financial, physical, emotional, meteorological. It feels as if all aspects are dragging me down, weighing me down. Every small task takes a major effort. I am doing what I can to manage all the forces that seem to be coming down against me:
    Weather? There is nothing to be done there, but I am going out into the cold and wet to handle the chores that can be done. I have been cutting blackberries with a vengeance, starting out easy then going all Edward Scissorhands until I am bloodied and I have piles of brambles higher than my head.
    Taxes. That is the big stressor, no doubt about it. I was notified in November that I had failed to file my Oregon taxes for 2011 (?) and by their estimated filing, with interest added, I owe about $3500. I can't argue. That was when I moved into my new home, was reeling from a disastrous, toxic relationship, and was having a mental meltdown. I don't know if I filed or not. But I have to pay. I finally called and talked to a nice rep, I am trying to work it out, but it has me stressed to the max. I will do what I can, but you can't squeeze blood out of a rock.
     Financial. See "Taxes" above, but also the ongoing stress of living at poverty level. Yes, this is partially my own doing, because I am choosing to work less and spend time on the things that money can't buy. Even if I were working full time at my job I would still be at the poverty level, but I would be stressed beyond my ability to manage. I would be dysfunctional, depressed, and angry. I would not be able to spend time with family, or working on my own home. I would still not have enough money, and would have no time for what I need to keep my sanity. So, sanity takes precedence. The frustrating part is doing a job that should pay about twice what I am being paid, and knowing that there is no raise anywhere in my future. It just won't happen where I work. But, again, I am working on finding ways to increase income and reduce debt, so there is that. I still lose sleep over it though.
    Physical. Damn, this is a tough one. I hate that my body hurts all the time. I keep swimming, that has been my fountain of youth. I have increased my strength training with the idea that if I can't be fast I can at least be strong (ish). I am currently doing 30 days of no grains, no baked goods, no dairy, and very minimal added sugar (I decided I still want my tea sweet). In some ways this is not that tough for me since I am already gluten free, eat minimal dairy (cheese only, and that in strict moderation), and don't eat many sweets (I am missing dark chocolate, I admit), and don't add much sugar to anything (except tea). On the other hand, being vegetarian it is tough to not have whole grains. I am used to rice, quinoa, teff, and some pasta now and then. But in the week that I have been doing it I am down a few pounds, feel less sluggish, and seem to have less tendon stiffness and pain (that might be a coincidence, but I will take what I can get).
    Emotional. Nothing to see here, just move along. Seriously though, I am not looking for someone to "complete me," I am very complete as it is. I have had too much experience with emotional vampires, manipulation, lies, betrayal, toxicity. But everyone has, so I won't dwell. My past has made me who I am; tough, resilient, self reliant, independent. These characteristics, fertilized and grown to fruition by past relationships, are also what makes me disinclined to pursue another relationship. I am not appreciated for who and what I am, there are expectations of making me change, become somehow less than what I am. I won't. I will not change who I am to conform to anyone's idea of what I "should" be. I will be me, all the way, head up, and confident. No more, no less.
     So life goes on. I dream of sunshine and warm breezes. I envision my gardens, herbs, and fruit trees growing verdant and laden. I will swim, train, and fuel my body. I will treat my body as the temple and fortress that it is. I will let magic and art into my life wherever and whenever I can. It is all I can do. And hope for sun.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Call It A Day

This week has felt a bit too familiar, with demons popping up like whack-a-moles. I know it is because my birthday is around the corner, combined with nasty weather, car problems, and the death of my favorite cat. Yesterday Mania paid me a visit, which was fortunate, because I needed that frenetic energy to make it through the day. I could have used it again today, but it abandoned me to the less desireable embrace of Melancholy and stress. Can't have one without the other, I know. But g'damn, Mania could have hung around for a few more days, I need the ambition and drive that it brings, even if I have to fight the brain fog, attention deficit and ping-pong thought process that skips along hand in hand. Can't say that Brain got back on track today though, it was every bit as scattered and spastic, but without the benefit of hilarity. By the gods, I am tired though. The last 36 hours have drained me dry. What a difference a day makes.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Find Your Focus

The current state of the nation, and the world, has me, like many others, on the verge of a panic induced nervous breakdown. So much negative news to process. So much mis-information to wade through. "Alternative Facts" that make me feel like we have slipped into the pages of a dystopian novel and are sliding down a steep slope into a quagmire that will keep us mired for years to come. It is making it increasingly difficult to look ahead with my normal optimism.
    There are so many hot button issues pulling me in every direction. I want to be able to raise my voice in dissent and protest to each and every one of them. But I know that would have me spinning my wheels, exhausted and weak, and out of energy long before the battle reaches its peak. Instead I have decided that I need to Find My Focus.
    This is my advice to all my friends, each of who is mired in the same vortex of doom. Find Your Focus. We all want to see the right thing done, we all want to stand against tyranny, injustice, deceit, and "alternative facts." But we can't be on every frontline. This is a battle fought on so many fronts, and no one can be everywhere and be effective. We know what is right, we know we need to stand together, there has to be a united front. But if we all try to support every cause we will fail out of the sheer weight of the load.
    Find Your Focus. Mine has become Public Broadcasting, and our public lands. These are two issues that speak to me. Public Broadcasting is our source of untainted news, in depth coverage of issues and events around the world as well as in our own backyard. It is a source of education for all, from preschool on up. It is publicly financed, as well as receiving government grants. Well, those grants may dry up, so if we want our PBS stations to continue we need to step up our own support. To me, this is an easy decision, and a relatively easy fix. I put my money where my mouth is and became a sustaining member, and discovered just how many friends I have that are already members as well. We need to keep our access to information if we want to have the true facts, not "alternative."
    Public Lands is a whole other scenario. Within days of coming to power the current administration is taking steps to sell off lands. They are not posting maps or information on which lands. Yes, some land could be sold or traded, but to whom and for what? Once these lands are gone, developed, logged, mined, whatever, they are gone. Gone. This speaks to me of a rape, pillage, and burn mentality. I have seen enough land clear cut in my time to know just how much it effects the entire ecosystem, including our clean water, and the air we breathe. We need our wild lands, our hiking trails, our access to untainted forests and waterways. It is vital to our well spiritual being, our sanity, and our health. This is an issue I will be watching closely, and trying to figure out where I can be of some service.
    Yes, there are so many issues that I support, but I have to narrow my focus to I can be effective. This does not mean I will not be supportive of all the other people finding their passion. We need to support each other, have each other's backs. Just because I am not marching at your side does not mean I think my cause is better, or more worthy than your's. With a strong solid base, we can win. If there is in-fighting over who has the more worthy cause, we will lose. I was disappointed to hear the gas-lighting of the Women's March by other protest groups. Really people? This is not middle school, it is not about which social group is the best, it is not jocks versus geeks, or stoners versus the chess club. We have fallen into such an "Us versus Them" mentality over the last few years that we can't seem to recognize allies when we see them. If nothing else, remember: "The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend." We have to stand together, everyone. I don't care where you live, where you grew up, what your religion is, your gender identity, sexual preference, skin color, or what your personal goals are, we need to support one another. We need to see that we are all fighting the same war, but with different weapons and in different trenches. But it is one fight. We all need to recognize that we are allies.
    Find Your Focus. Pick your battle. Stand beside your allies. We can do this. We have to do this. If we fail we fall into dystopia, and may never find our way out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Please Don't Take My Public Broadcasting Stations!

    Facebook is the modern equivalent of the old fashioned bulletin board. We post notes and posters for our favorite music, books, events, rallies, protests, politics, and opinions. Of course the bulk of the postings lately have been in regards to the political scene in the U.S. of A. and how it is all starting to manifest in our darkest nightmares. I made the comment, "We need to rebel in whatever means our personal gifts allow." For me, currently, that is the gift of words.
    I have always managed to remain what I consider "apolitical." Yes, I vote. But I vote my conscience, not along party lines. Yes, I have opinions. Most opinions I have kept to myself, knowing that no matter what I could say it will very likely not influence anyone else's opinion on their political beliefs. Add to this the fact that most people can't talk politics or religion on even the smallest scale without getting defensive and offensive. So I choose to keep my political thoughts to myself, much as I keep my spiritual beliefs to myself, and live as a solitary practitioner.  
    But desperate times call for desperate measures. The new POTUS is beginning to hack away at the guts of the regulations protecting our rights, our freedoms, our education, and our environment. Every aspect of what truly makes "America Great."  Under the guise of "budget cuts" he is even cutting funding for PBS and NPR, our best hope for untainted, unbiased news. Our best source for scientific, political, and literary information. So much of what I have learned over the years was sparked by an episode of Frontline, Nova, Oregon Art Beat, or one of the many fabulous documentaries offered free of charge through our local Public Broadcasting Station. Since the election I have limited my news source to National Public Radio, since it gives balanced news stories from all sides, and in depth reporting instead of easily misconstrued sound bites. My younger brothers, and my children (as well as millions of other children) were given their first taste of the delight of knowledge from shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, Electric Company, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. I have learned countless recipes from The Frugal Gourmet, America's Test Kitchen, and Natalie Dupree, to name a few.
    Without access to intelligently designed and researched information we are left to the mercy of Google. I am not knocking Google, I use it frequently. But I have learned how to fact check, and sort through the garbage, because I learned at a young age that truth and facts are vital to a good end product be it a book report, science project, or chocolate cake. As they say, "Garbage In, Garbage Out." If we rely solely on the internet for our "news" stories we can be fed a steady stream of what have now been called "Alternative Facts." I can guaran-damn-tee you that PBS and NPR will not feed us the bullshit that seems to be flowing freely from our highest offices. Without truth, knowledge will be replaced with ignorance, understanding with bias, cooperation with alienation. The dumbing down of America could reach unfathomable depths.
    Even if you think I am over-reacting on this particular issue, think of the millions of lives touched by PBS. Can you honestly say that you have not been influenced on some level by Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, or Mister Rogers? How many children learned their ABCs, numbers, and shapes with the help of Jim Henson's Muppets? How many children were made to feel special by the kind words of a sweatered Mister Rogers? That impact alone is enough to defend funding for our Public Broadcasting. Even though I am well below the poverty line I am making a donation to OPB, and will try to send money when I can. I think it is the American thing to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Today is The Day

    Today is the day. The Time-to-pull-myself-up-by-my-Bootstraps Day. January has been a tough month. Between my standard winter depression, post-holiday blues, politics, bitter cold days that had me iced in with cabin fever and cut into my swim days, freezing days at work that left me drained, fighting off a cold/flu that has sucked all of my energy and motivation, and a weird series of events this week that is dredging up demons from my past, I have been struggling to make myself get out of bed in the mornings. But, last night, as I crawled into bed, aching and tired and having skipped my evening workout, I decided that today would be the day to make myself get my shit together and get back on track. I am returning to the "make no excuses" mentality that has carried me through the last few years, through thick and thin.
    The weather is cooperating. The sun has been shining through scattered clouds, the snow and ice are long gone, the wind is drying things out nicely. I have done a quick perusal of the property and I seem to have escaped any storm damage, thankfully. I am getting the itch to start prepping my garden area, but it is still a bit brisk out, and the ground is far too wet. Instead I will peruse my seed and garden catalogs this evening for inspiration.
    High on the list of getting my shit together is getting my house clean, and I'm already well into a day of doing just that. The last few weeks of ennui have left me devoid of any desire to maintain my housekeeping. The resulting clutter and dust only adds to my feelings of dissatisfaction. I learned long ago that being surrounded with disarray only adds to any depression issues that are lurking about. Time to declutter home and mind.
    One area that has remained fairly consistent, with few blips, is my standard regiment of nutrition and training. True, the weather cut into my swim schedule, but that can't be helped. I have increased my strength training in all areas, and am loving the muscle definition. I have been on a bit of a sugar binge (binge compared to my usual low intake... but nothing compared to what I was doing years ago at this time of year), but am still keeping to the concept of rocket fuel for my body. I have known for decades that the best thing I can do to get through the dark, grim days of winter relatively unscathed is to workout daily, and eat healthy. As the years have gone by I have refined and increased my diligence all around. But this last week, with illness dogging me, I was only able to do daily maintenance, instead of  pushing myself as I prefer to do.
     So, Today is the Day. I've had a few weeks of wallowing, it needs to stop. I can't face the chaos of the world around me if I allow myself to flounder. Time to move ahead.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Political Ramblings

    Rarely do I talk politics. It is rarer still for me to write anything remotely political. But this morning I lay in bed for nearly an hour pondering the upcoming inauguration that is now looming like a shadow over my country. I could go on and on about all the things in his past that make him unfit to hold any political office, lack of experience being the least of them. But if the American people were willing to overlook allegations of child rape, sexual abuse and harassment, misogyny, prejudice, and Russian hacking, then why would they care that he is in the hip pocket of powerful people and groups that are eying the United States like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked and squashed into jam for their own table?
    Pondering this, while I lay in my cave-like room, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, my mind went down a path to the Big Picture.  A man has been elected to our most powerful office, without the popular vote, who will very likely implode in a most spectacular manner, sooner than later, I think. There is no way he will manage to stay in office for a full term without something from his past (or many things), or some series of bizarre actions on his part (actions that are already lifting their heads), that will have him deemed "Unfit for Office."  By then his cabinet will be firmly in place, and he will be swept under the rug as an embarrassing moment in history.
    Does this make me feel any better. Not by a long shot. He is a puppet. Plain and simple. How else could he have made it as far as he has without the machinations of some very powerful people and groups pulling strings, covering scandals, and manipulating the truth? He is not intelligent enough to have led such a behind the scenes campaign. He may be wealthy, but not compared to the real power brokers of the world, and despite his own feelings of self-worth I don't believe he has that kind of clout.
    Wandering further along the path of the Big Picture takes me to his choices for his Cabinet. It reads like a list of the top of the financial food chain. He is selecting, with suggestions from the behind the scenes puppeteers, no doubt, a conglomeration of people known for their lack of ethics when it comes to filling their own pockets. Our country will be at the mercy of Big Pharma, Wall Street, and Big Oil. These are people with long histories of trying to game the system, get past regulations, and with no concern for us peons. They will rape, plunder, gut, and salt the earth. We are on the cusp of falling under the reign of people so wealthy that all they care about is more wealth, no matter the cost to us, our children and our grandchildren, and I am truly frightened. And so many people are falling right in line, with the all consuming thought that it may (or may not) create more jobs. They will be content with the crumbs falling to the floor, with no thought of what those crumbs are actually costing us.
     Already the president-elect is showing his propensity for spoiled, child-like behavior. Temper tantrums and rants put out publicly for the entire world to see. He has discovered his power over the stock market, with a few offhand remarks he can cause a company's stocks to plummet. He has threatened to take us deeper into a cold war, wanting More Nukes, and yet seems to be a crony of the  biggest threat to our safety.
     As I see the tableau unfolding, with his childish, boorish behavior, I can only think that his masters are hoping he will manage to keep his mouth shut just long enough to get sworn in, and have his Cabinet choices firmly locked in, before he erupts into full meltdown.
    My prediction is that well before his term is ended he will be taken down in a spectacular manner, deemed Unfit, and removed from office. Then his VP will take over, knowing full well how to work the system, milk the country for all it is worth, destroy our rights from the inside, and leave our country destitute emotionally and physically. All the pieces are being put into play, and I feel helpless.
     The Optimist in me thinks that maybe we are just in another cycle of the pendulum swing. All through history we see this happen. Most recently, with us, it was the McCarthy Era. We had to swing so far to one extreme in order to come back and find balance. Maybe that is all this is, the extreme before we can return to balance. I had thought the Great Recession had done that, but instead we managed to become even more divided, the Us Versus Them that has brought our country to the brink. The pendulum swings. The Pit and the Pendulum? Gods, I hope not.
    Now that I have spilled my guts out, airing my own personal Conspiracy Theory, I need to purge myself of the shadows. I need the warmth of my family. Feel the love of those I hold most dear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reflection on 2016 Part One

    The old year has come to a close, the new year begun. Always a time for speculation, introspection, review. It is also the 5 Year Anniversary of moving into my own little house. My home is the ultimate symbol of self-reliance and freedom. It marks a turning point in my life that was monumental, painful, explosive, inevitable, insane, and empowering. I stepped out of the shadows, into darkness, and climbed out of the abyss into a glorious independence and emancipation.  Funny thing, as the years pass, I know that I cherish my solitude and autonomy more with the passing of time.
    But this was the year I began to feel the weight of mortality.  Early in the year, my friend James, killed on his motorcycle. Father of 2 young sons, with a third on the way. My friend and mentor, Angus, killed by the cancer that had dogged him for years. I found out that a good friend from my youth, a goofy, loveable guy, committed suicide a few years ago after a long struggle with mental illness.  
    Last month my Station Captain let us all know he was diagnosed with cancer. He won't be specific, just says it is in his abdomen, that is a tough one, and he is pursuing treatment that will likely leave him fatigued, and immune suppressed. This guy is 10 years younger than I am. Four kids ranging from 12 to 17. He is a farmer by trade, and a volunteer firefighter for 25 years. It is likely that exposure to the carcinogens on the fireground are a contributing factor to his current dilemma. This is a guy full of energy, strong, active. He has taught me much of what I know about being a firefighter. Between him and Cap'n Eddie, they have taught me almost everything I know. All I can do is wish him well, and try to silently send him energy to make it through his illness.
    I don't even want to get into the list of the idols of my youth, and celebrities that were lost this year: Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michaels, Patty Duke, Muhammed Ali, John Glenn, Leonard Cohen, Anton Yelchin, Janet Reno... the list seems endless.
    The most vicious reminder was the sudden death of my young friend Bryony.  A beautiful light cut down far too early. I was blindsided by it. An in-your-face reminder of how fragile life is, what a tenuous grip we have, and how we will never know what moment could be our last.
    It solidified the path I have chosen these last few years, to stop wasting time where it doesn't matter. Stop burning energy in relationships and work that suck me dry. Spend time where it matters; with family, with friends, with myself. I have wasted too many years in toxic situations, although my past is what has made me who I am, so I will turn my back on regrets, and turn my face to the future. I am trying to live in The Now, live within the loving circle of family and friends.
    This has been a rough post to write. I have started and stopped multiple times. Writing, closing, coming back to write some more. It has been painful to think back over the losses of the year. It does reinforce my need to look forward, keep my eyes to the future, and surround myself with what I love.