Monday, February 20, 2017

Word of the Week - 155

Portion of "Window in Collioure" by Henri Matisse, 1942
Word of the Week: TIPTOE 

My thought for the week:  I'd rather not walk where I feel the need to tiptoe.  I am at home in art, in beauty, in poetry, color, music, laughter, all foods for the senses.  I find strength there, bedrock wisdom, grounding.  For whatever life has planned, I am better for leaning into what provides enduringly solid footing while acting as a timeless balm for my soul.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Word of the Week - 154

Illustrator Pablo Auladell and friend.
Writer/artist Edward Gorey as puppeteer.
Word(s) of the Week:  INNER CREATURES

Various sources tell us of our inner beings, the ways they inform and shape our lives.  Inner goddesses, the inner child, inner chef, inner entrepreneur.  I wish for us each to claim our inner creatures.

My creatures are closely tied to the inner child, their gifts the ones I wish she'd had to provide a greater sense of safety and of self.  My inner octopus, a master of camouflage and squeezing into tiny hiding places.  Tentacles, essentially eight additional brains, would have sensed when conditions required caution.  I cannot imagine an octopus behaving recklessly.  My outer child/teenager was a puzzling combinations of timid and foolhardy.  The creature's ability to move swiftly yet with the languid grace found in water-dwellers speaks to my inner mermaid.  The sense of becoming weightless, certainly less gravity-dominated in water still calls to me.

My inner bear, considered a light hibernator, enjoys long winter naps while being able to awaken and take part in Christmas festivities and a winter birthday, neither of which require actually getting dressed.  An especially thick, warm bathrobe could transition handsomely between cave and civilization and would, of course, have roomy pockets to carry foraged treats back to the nest.  There might also be an inner tortoise capable of hibernating more deeply.  The three which were family pets spent their winters in a well-protected location packed with dry leaves, hibernation by concierge.

There is probably a spot at which a spirit animal and inner creature intersect.  The attributes of totem forms supply what we most need: a moth, a crow, a fish and my most frequent visitors, parrots.  We live in one of the Southern California neighborhoods inhabited by flocks of wild Amazon parrots.  They roost and cavort just outside our windows.  At times their squawking drowns out conversation.  We invent dialogue for them, their loud exchanges sounding like accusation and complaint.

For at least the past 10 years or so I have identified with the story of Ferdinand the Bull, realizing that my activity of greatest comfort is a metaphoric smelling of the flowers, sidestepping conflict, declining to engage in rivalries, feuds, stink talk in general.  With the goal of a quiet mind and quiet heart, I follow Ferdinand's example, growing still as I celebrate beauty wherever I find it.

In another post, we may contemplate inner fictional human creatures.

Wishing you blessings of all the Animal Gods.  (Thank you, Rebecca.)  xo

Monday, February 6, 2017

Word of the Week - 153

Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware.
Word(s) of the Week:  A WIDENED MIND

I picked Jimmy Corrigan as this week's poster boy for his "smartest kid in the world" title without any connection to his story.  If interested, please read the article at the link, above.

And I will also use myself as a stand-in for the rest of humanity, speaking of my experience, trusting that it is more universal.

A closed mind in a hamster wheel, a spinning treadmill from which I would never escape IF I stayed there without allowing in light, air and other possibilities.  I can suffocate myself with narrow, pinched thinking.  I, and I assume many of us, am not the best judge of my better aspects.  Too often I fail to find any finer points when I bolt the doors, pull the blackout curtains and burrow into my obvious and plentiful, as I believe, shortcomings.  This happens most often under stress and when tired.

With some rather limited experience of meditation, I know how a quiet mind feels, what it says - or doesn't say.  The agitated mind is a liar, perhaps out of malice, perhaps simply from fatigue.  It, in my case, has compiled evidence of insufficiency in pretty much all areas.  Viewing the documents in the case, my spirits sag lower still.  The evidence is so compelling.

But wait!  Put the focus elsewhere, like, say, sinking into an interesting movie or book, seeing the world with a refreshed perspective.  It actually feels as though louvers have opened in my temples, allowing refreshing breezes in, letting stale notions escape, certainly thinning the noxious gasses they produce.  With a brain open to the winds and the world, I feel so much more connected to all that is not me.  I gain a sense of being part of a vast and benevolent entity in which good thoughts prevail, in which "thank you" becomes a mantra, in which unseen hands are joined in fellowship.

A widened mind is not so much the product of being really smart as it is about being open.  I thrive on ideas that are not just self-generated.  Like when somebody forgets to change the water in the fish bowl, things grow slimy, murky and, let's face it, deadly.  I remind myself, or outside forces remind me, to unlatch the windows, to grab the broom and sweep away sour opinions.  Perfection is neither a reasonable nor attainable goal, but expanded thinking is, a practice that lets me see myself as more than I seem.  We are here to be, I believe, the best versions of ourselves, something we find through being connected to each other and the infinite in which we dwell.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Word of the Week - 152


My maternal grandmother was a battlefield nurse in World War I.  When, in her 60s, she became ill she was admitted to the Veteran's Hospital in West Los Angeles.  Long before freeways went from Pasadena to those far reaches, my father drove our family over one night a week so my mother and I could visit her.  Dressed in my Easter suit, I passed for the minimum age allowed to call on patients.  On one of our visits, she was not in her bed nor anywhere to be found around the ward.  No once could tell us where she might be.  We were apprehensive, as she was nearly blind and had recently lost a leg to diabetes.  We waited beside her bed as they screened a movie for the women.  I think it was something with Elvis Presley.

Eventually an attendant wheeled her back and I'm sure we hissed our questions at her, trying not to talk over the movie.  Where have you been?  We were so worried.  Etc.  Her calm response was, "I've been out cheering up the sick people."

I think of her often, as I knew her and as the young Gertrude Holden of Boston, sailing to France after graduating nursing school at what was then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.  In addition to "cheering up the sick people," she was known to have said on numerous occasions, "It isn't Boston but it IS Massachusetts," both of which I have borrowed and quoted all my adult life, probably to the annoyance of those who have listened to me the most.

The thought of her, of her ability to find something of value in what to many of us would seem worthless, the model she was that told me no matter what, if we draw breath we have something to offer others, helps me at times when I begin to sag or doubt.  If we are without words, we can listen.  We can offer a hand to hold.  We can refuse to be discouraged.  We can whistle, we can sing, we can be very clear about what matters most, about what is our truth.

I know that hospital ward, which once felt so cavernous, which I would swear reached into distant and shadowy corners on our night visits, would no longer appear so large.  I remember the relief my mom and I felt as we caught sight of her, seeming to return again from the battlefields, from very far away, her face, her spirit beaming.  I hope some of her lives on in me.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Word of the Week - 151

Art by Rebecca Dautremer.
Rebecca Dautremer illustration, JULES VERNE, 2016.
Word of the Week:  ATTEND

Multiple decades of living have schooled me.  They have enlightened and confused and guided me, taught me to recognize the urgings from which my truth emerges.  I have learned, I continue to learn, to attend my soul's guidance. 

My mother once told me that when I tried to lie I lit up like a tilt sign.  While I knew in the moment she intended to discourage further attempts at dishonesty, I also believed her.  While the blaring of a flashing tilt sign may be more internal now than it was then, it is no less present, certainly no less emphatic.

While we find companionship and support in numbers, in reality we always ride alone.  In certain respects each of us is an army of one, directed on a unique assignment.  Adhering to my own truth while legions would have me join and follow can be isolating.  Worse, it may cause me to doubt what I have come to know as my path.  It seems part of what we are here to be is misunderstood, for it is impossible, not to mention onerous, trying to explain a state so clear when viewed within and so limp and inadequate-appearing when held to the light of day and critical eyes.  We want those who care for us to understand, to trust our self-knowing, realizing they may not.

What any of us is best equipped to do is be ourself.  To be that we must first know just what that means.  Arriving at that information is a lengthy, possibly lifelong process.  Such awareness is hard-won, its value unquestionable.  We navigate our days amid the noise of many voices.  Know the one that speaks to and for you with the greatest honesty and attend to that.   

Monday, January 16, 2017

Word of the Week - 150

D&G 2014.
Word of the Week:  SUNSHINE

While I often label color as a nutrient, I know beyond doubt that sunshine actually is.  A vitamin D deficiency smartens one up rather quickly to the fact that a human body needs the light of the sun.  In my world that leaves color the task of being sunshine for the spirit.

It is not alone in its assignment, for I corral it with its fellows, including beauty by multiple definitions, swiftly running rivers, things that smell wonderful, the love of and for friends and family, silliness, kindness, insight and intelligence, artfully arranged words.   Oh, such a long list.  For the spirit to be underfed requires cataclysm of epic proportions.

I have long believed that any garment ought to have pockets and to be without them is a failure of aesthetics and duty.  In those pockets one can keep and transport the necessary charms, talismans, symbols of spiritual sunshine, available like smelling salts when weariness gains the upper hand.

We have never truly known where the next step of our journey will take us.  That we don't know today only suggests there may be additional reasons for gathering to us more closely that which brightens and enlivens, that which lifts our hearts.  Vitality fuels our imaginations, empowers and strengthens.  The world needs us, needs our spirits, inspired, nourished, hopeful and strong.   The world needs, we need, our sunshine. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Word of the Week - 149

Page header and cover of a French ledger received for Christmas.  Today is Saint Agathon's Day.
Word of the Week:  JANUARY

I believe January is one of those hybrids, both month and state of mind.  As I age, I find that I am happier with more hours of sunlight, more warmth.  While I expect that, come August, I will be displeased with temperatures above 105, there is more day to the days.  Winter nights, relieved by strings of cheery, glowing bulbs, are bearable.  Without them, a sense of isolation creeps in.  Shivering, along with watery gray skies, aggravates a nature already listing toward occasional melancholy.  And all of this, mind you, takes place in Southern California, not North Dakota or even Virginia where winter doesn't kid around.  And, may I add, how much I have always loved the rain.  Just a bit less so when it falls in January.

January can feel like a primitive rope bridge strung between the sweetness, the natural or induced jollity of Christmas and the once-celebrated heart-filled red joy of Valentine's Day.  Thank you, Dr. King, for giving us a holiday mid-month to release some of the chilly tension.

As I see each day as the chance for a new beginning, the New Year holds no particular promise of transformation to come.  December brings a unique shine, associated with stars and glitter, colorful packaging, specific music, greetings exchanged, good wishes, peace on earth.  January is the absence of festivity, all possible childlike anticipations too far away to give comfort.  If one could find a way to spread the holidayness of December a bit thinner, to stretch it beyond the first of the year rather than using it up in what feels like a week or even just the one day, I believe winter would lose some of its sting.  One would feel less bereft.  No doubt you are thinking that to make the celebration of December holidays a more lengthy endeavor would dilute them.  I disagree.  January needs a little Christmas or its own special not-Christmas, its own bit of happy gleam to chase the deepened shadows, the damp, the ice.

I am not glum as I sit typing in my red sweater having spritzed cautiously frugal dots of Chanel #5 so the fragrance wafts from wrists to stuffy nose, singing to the senses.  Without inflated expectations of Christmas, I no longer experience the droop that used to follow.  Still, January at best is a wet blanket, at worst a bleak expanse.  No, it is not a particularly rational response to a collection of days that mean no harm but one's response to stimuli is rarely rational.  Keep the fires burning, hibernate if that helps pass the time, fill the hours with laughter and all that feeds the senses.  Press on.  Always know that something wonderful IS just around the corner.  Hello, February.  Will you be my winter Valentine?