Little Hurricanes

Prettier in Paris

My daughter arrived on Wednesday, creating a little hurricane in my carefully organized room, and isn’t that what we all need? Someone to stir the pot, to rustle us from the same old, to say “no” to our plans and shoulder us into the new?

She was ten when we first came here together, posing beneath the miniature Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens and dressed all in purple and pigtails. She won’t let me show the photo and she knows a secret: Honor the past, but don’t let it define you. I need to remember that myself.

Dressing this morning, she pulled a straw-like and scythe-shaped grey hair from her locks and held it toward me. I told her it didn’t belong there and not to worry; it had most likely blown off the weathered head of a boat captain as we walked along the Seine last night. Another gift from getting outside your self. He knows secrets too, but we decide to only imagine them.

 

Strapped for Time

Strapped for TimeSo I’m wandering down an empty lane thinking about how I’ve gotten myself into a place where time has me by the short hairs when I glance up and suddenly burst out laughing, quite alone and suddenly quite relaxed to spot my feelings so blatantly displayed for all to see. How likely is it that someone would have taped up this clock and dropped it onto my path on the very day I’m feeling overloaded? Strapped for time, that’s me, and a big thank you to the universe for letting me laugh it out in a big way.

I’m not sure about the nature of time. I know we all want more of it, but we’re quick to specify that we want *this* kind of time and not *that* kind of time. More time with those we love, and less time paying bills. More time to learn and create, and less time studying for finals. More time to savor a good meal and less time standing in supermarket lines. Of course there are a few enlightened souls among us who can make the most of the lines and the numbers and the tests and find joy there, but mostly we tend to bargain with time — this for that — rather than changing the way we experience it.

Like most, I experience change and attribute many of those changes to the passage of time. But how often have we said “it’s as if time stood still?” So change isn’t dependent on time, and time doesn’t always equal change. If I allot eight hours and fifteen minutes to a flight, I can walk the streets of Paris instead of Charlotte’s, but can I not *feel* Paris in an instant on any day of any year? And I can guarantee you that I’m able to dedicate eight hours to writing a proposal and get absolutely nothing of value accomplished. So honestly, the concept of time is pretty wishy washy, and how can I hold myself so accountable to wishy washy?

Let’s say I have ten great years left, and fifteen good ones, and five glad-to-be-here years. As a girl, my dad was really big on the Ten Year Plan, and he was always asking us about ours. At 25, I figured I was young enough to feel my way through it. At 60, planning my next Ten Fabulous Years has become high priority. Fortunately I’ve learned along the way that life can be pretty much exactly what you make it, and I love that daily creation.

Except for the unexpected. Never discount the unexpected. After 50, always eat dessert first. Don’t put aside your hopes and dreams.

So I’m going to look at this giant banded clock another way. Instead of Time wrapping her arms tight around me and demanding a response, I think I’ll tie these big blue bands around *her* for a week and breathe, dream, plan, and grab my joy. Sometimes You Gotta.

Reinvention

Paris Portal I try my best to remember how long it’s been since I traveled alone. Where I went, when I last felt this blossoming possibility of quietly intense discovery, the possibility of returning to the pulse so firmly silenced by the minutiae of days upon days of falling further behind with every tick of the clock. Melodrama, and yet the truth of it eats away at me.

I’m certain there are bad meals to be had in Paris, and certain that the odds are good on a street just off the plaza in front of Notre Dame, but the dressing on my salad of bright greens and deep purples is as light and crisp as air, and the generous slice of quiche is so breathy and moist that, having baked a gazillion quiches in my life, I can’t imagine what alchemy has gone into this one, how the maker has combined eggs and cream and cheese and ham and crust to bring forth a meal totally unlike what I know as quiche. And it strikes me how life is like this: how often we look in the same direction we’ve always looked, grabbing the same materials to create a life day after day. I am a mix of A, B, C, and D, and that mix creates X. Why do I so rarely see that ABCD can create P just as easily? How are we clear-eyed and blind simultaneously?

I’ve come to Paris to meet my daughter, who’ll be reviewing hotels. But I’ve arrived a few days early to get my bearings on my own terms first. It was a stroke of genius, but the timing is awful. I’m hopelessly behind on several deadlines, struggling with remnants of the flu, and I’ll return amidst frenzied preparations for our biggest event of the year.

Notre Dame GardensAnd yet, of course, the timing is perfect, coming as it does at the moment before implosion. I’m at a tipping point, and I desperately need the space and time to reinvent. How much easier it is to take the hard looks and consider alternatives surrounded by strangers instead of those we don’t want to disappoint. How much easier it is to imagine change when everything I see is already a drastic departure from my everyday.

The girl at my left has managed all of her salad, a slab of French bread, and at least 4/5 of her enormous quiche. She sips randomly on a lemonade, an ice water, and a glass of white (not bothering to choose only one), scrolling her phone and smoking in the breezy sunlight. A couple several tables over pays and stands up to leave, the woman becoming louder and louder as she speaks with agitation to the owner. I can’t/don’t-want-to hear her, don’t want to know if she is French or American or Other, don’t want to wonder what stuck in her craw on this gorgeous day of freedom and light. She leaves and we all shake it off and try to move back to ourselves.

So what will it be Pam? In the last 37 hours of flight and flu recovery, I’ve slept 16 hours, read a 451 page book, eaten two meals, and downed 8 cups of tea. I’m primed. Let’s get to it.

Hôtel de Ville, Paris

Live It Real

Kafka Quote

Howl

Coyotes are moving in. I haven’t seen one yet, even though our garden along the wooded creek provides some prime hors d’oeuvres, but I’m getting the emails every couple of days now. “Coyote spotted on Cassamia Glen. Coyote StareHe was so thin he walked through the bars of my iron gate.” “Coyote spotted on Forest Drive, trotting down the middle of the street in broad daylight. A neighbor’s dog barked like mad, and the coyote never even glanced over.” Phantoms are walking among us, their wildness brushing too close to our cultivated lives, and I can’t help feeling a little like Harry Potter spying the wispy cloaktrails of a dementor.

Back in the 80’s when I owned every Molly-Ringwold-worthy funky pin to be found at Wal-Mart, I had a cute little pewter rendition of a howling coyote. He seemed so whimsically free-spirited and a little like me with a heart full of song and a soul full of wanderlust. A cocker spaniel with a great set of lungs. Youthful myopia, I loved you so! Wiser now with better glasses and living in an increasingly cat-free neighborhood, coyotes simply suck, and their eerie howl is about as close to the tolling of the bell as it gets.

Coyotes, unlike me, have no fear. Airplanes are hitting them on runways. What living being can you name that will stand its ground while a 900,000 pound 747 bears down screaming at 130 decibels? No wonder the frenzied barking of a domesticated golden retriever doesn’t warrant so much as a glance.

I have fear. I feel it when I think of the friend who died on Tuesday after my husband held his hand and laughed goodbyes with him, less than 30 days after the doctors saw cancer. I feel it when I think of a friend who died of unseen injuries on Sunday, 20 days after walking away from totaling her car and so grateful to be alive. I feel it when I think of my father-in-law, dead only 11 days after discovering lung cancer, or my mother, dead in 6 months from a condition considered “easily controlled by drugs,” or my too-many friends seeking life through chemotherapy and other poisons. Coyotes are everywhere — hungry, unafraid, and thin enough to pass through our gates.

And I want to learn how to beat the coyote at his own game. I want to learn that laser beam focus, that unflinchable exterior, that iron-clad intent. And most of all, I want to learn to stop being so “nice”, so allowing, so patient, so quiet, so willing to take a back seat, so ready to fight for others but not for myself. I’m not there yet, but I’m in training, and the coyotes are taunting me to give it a go. There will be howling.

Howl, Mosaic Art by Pamela Goode

Leaving Home on a Morning Walk

Poem and Photo by Pamela Goode

When I walk now,
I gasp a little.

Weak-kneed and queasy,
trusting myself only on this simple
path —
straight and safe and
known

(we love the known),

but walking,
nonetheless.

Sun and breeze a shield of sorts,
holding me together or
(at least)
familiar parts of me
within arm’s
reach.

Comfort enough
for now.

 

c. Pamela Goode 2012

Undoing

Undoing, Photo by Pamela Goode

Today, I am undoing. In this modern-day world where “doing” divides the successful from the also-rans, and “undoing” is tantamount to cutting your losses and limping back to the starting gate, it feels surprisingly good. I’m not frantic to make up the time lost, I’m not cursing myself over a lack of precision, nor am I on pins and needles about the final outcome. I like to work with a fair amount of precision. I aim for perfection, but I’m not a slave to it. I like to let the fabric of life have its way with me — and who’s to say this project or that won’t turn out better with a little free spirit thrown in? They almost always, always do.

So I’m slicing and removing, rather happily, what was really pretty much good enough to begin with. And it isn’t because I need the control, although that would be understandable. And it isn’t because I’m looking for pristine, although I’d certainly take it. And it isn’t because I feel anger and the need to destroy, or even the need to create. It feels calming, and free, and soft, and intimate, and in some ways almost motherly, although I’m not sure which of us is the mother at this moment.

And I think it feels good because it’s deliberate. I made a deliberate decision to take apart and resew these seams not only to make them straighter or to ease the way for the next, but because it feels good to get in there and wrestle with the guts, to decide, on my terms, which to leave alone, perfect or not, and which to slide my fingers along, unravel, consider, and remake in the style of my choosing. And yes, I am actually piecing and sewing and resewing fabrics, and yes, this is blissfully metaphoric. And of course the best part is that when I’m finished, it won’t just be pieces of cloth fitted together and beautiful, but pieces of cloth fitted together and beautiful and deeply, deeply considered, and this is what love is, yes?

And tomorrow the sun will be out and I will be in the garden, and my next post will be about weeding.

Proliferative Rat Bastards

I don’t know how long I’ve had breast cancer, only that today was the first day I woke up knowing it. Today was the first day I opened my eyes aware that something inside me wanted more, and it wasn’t love or inspiration or creation or enlightenment. Today was the first day I opened my eyes aware that something inside me isn’t “me” at all, and I’m telling you, it’s a total Sigourney Weaver moment, but without the big paycheck.

There are many qualities I have to reach for on a daily basis, because living outside of myself does not come so easily for me. My True Self is 99% sensitivity and introspection. I see in others what I know in myself, and I try to serve as a partner along the path. And if I’m all about looking inward, how did I not see this? How did I not feel this? How the hell did I grow this, and allow it to feast on me?

There are many things I’ve worried about in my life, and breast cancer was never, ever, ever even a blip on the radar. I don’t have a single risk factor for breast cancer. I’ve taken diligent precautions in other areas that were much bigger threats to my health. I don’t even think mammograms hurt — piece of cake. Although I hadn’t had one in a while. Not for any good reason — is there a good reason? The last thing my beloved doctor of 12 years said to me before she left the building a month ago and joined a “boutique” practice was “Go downstairs and make an appointment for a mammogram before you leave the building.” And I did. If I could afford the $2500 annual fee, I would walk into her new office and hug her big.

And this is what it feels like: Strength. Calmness. Hysteria. Dissolution. Resolve. Lack of Focus. Resignation. Belief. Giving Up. Anxiety. Muteness. Dirtiness. Openness. Love. Hate. Love. All on the fast track and vibrating like a loaded spring inside me, blocking the pathways between sensing and knowing, between realizing and speaking, between the intent and the act.

I’m not going to turn this blog into a cancer diary, because this damnable grabby greedy rat bastard stealer of life won’t be with me for long. But he has forced himself uninvited and unwanted onto my path, and he will change me a bit just as love and childbirth and friends and Italy and art have changed me, and I will continue to scour the corners of my psyche to see what’s hiding and what needs the light of day for a better understanding. So yeah, more of the same. But I’ve got my growl on now.

Looking at Trees

Costa Rica Tree, by Pamela Goode

When the kids were young and we lived in a small town in South Carolina, I was briefly a biker. I’d hop on my Wal-Mart Special every afternoon, plug in Jason’s walkman and pedal as hard as I could, asking questions and listening for answers in the music. After the requisite number of laps around the park by the bay, I’d coast into the historic district and walk my bike into the cemetery at Prince George, laying my body flat on the weathered stone that covered one of the raised tombs beneath the dogwoods. Music off now, I’d stare through the leaves, lime or forest or claret as the seasons changed, peering beyond them to watch dark birds so far beyond my eyes etching circles into the blue. I didn’t think, and I didn’t need to think — the watching filled my heart and soul and soothed my limbs and made the way seem easy. Sometimes I’d let a question lie beside me on the stone in quiet co-existence. More often than not, I walked back to my bike and headed for home with a fresh view. I made friends with the issues, and the issues were usually content to fall away.

Some days I need more trees. I need to be able to stand on the sand near the bay, or sit on the gritty picnic table in salty jeans with my face upturned and listen to the trees talking each to each, the wind singing by on tiptoe or deep-throated, grabbing me by the ears and rouging my cheeks and urging me to join the dance, to hear, to grasp, to run, to yelp with joy or sorrow or passion or fear or laughter but to pull out of myself and join in the sound of the pines and the sky and the circling birds. I haven’t been there in a while.

I once wondered if I listened hard enough, or well enough, or often enough, if I could learn the words or the tune or the meaning of treesong. Outside of Harry Potter and, was it Babes in Toyland? — I’ve never seen an evil tree. Trees are universally comforting. They shelter, cradle, feed, and dance and soothe us with a sense of permanence and balletic invincibility. I need to take myself back there.

Some days the best thing that happens is the kindness of a stranger with grandma hair and warm hands, making sure she looks you in the eye when she speaks so you can feel her words even if you can’t hear them. Some days it hurts to reach because you have a hole in your flesh big enough to pass a pair of tweezers through. Some days those you adore want to be with you every minute, because they need to hold on to the love and make it real enough to stand as a fortress. Some days are made of nothing but hours and the ticking of second hands, because nothing exists between the tweezers and the call. Some days there is nothing better than holding hands, and nothing that heals as much as looking at trees.

The Odd Moment

I’m always running behind. Walking into work with a Carmen Miranda melange of must-be-done today tasks arranged willy-nilly and aslant, balanced precariously on my buzzing brain. And after a day’s work, I walk back into our house sporting a very similar headpiece — the fruits may have changed, but the basket is still overfull and topheavy, threatening to spill and be lost at any moment.

What are You Waiting For?

Most of the time I’m okay with this. I love my life, and I snarl at sleep as a major annoyance. But I don’t have much down time.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I realized the gallery was covered Friday morning, and I had a few hours off before a long weekend workshop. Supplies were in and set-up couldn’t happen before 4:00. I cleaned my workspace (some would call it a kitchen), washed the sink, and sat. And for someone who is never, ever, ever bored, I was oddly close. Quite, and oddly, at loose ends.

Given enough time, of course, I could have been productive. Or even mindfully unproductive, which can be just as good (and sometimes better). But caught unaware and given a gift — the one gift we ALL covet — I was totally unprepared.

Boredom always seems so expansive, no matter how momentary. It’s as if the mind, the heart, and the soul are all busy elsewhere, and all that makes you you is off on holiday. How is it that we can so easily forget who we are, what we love, our passions and pleasures? How is it that I can sit for a moment with time at my feet, and not be able to remember what I love? And yet I can always remember the chores left undone.

I’ve always laughed at myself, or maybe scoffed is the better word, when I’m trying to think of something to make for dinner and can’t remember a single favorite. For years I’ve been meaning to make a list: “food I like to eat.” And now it appears that I need to make another: “things I like to do.” I don’t want to be caught staring into space the next time a few odd  moments fall into my lap. Hmmm, sounds like the topic for my next post 🙂