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.

Running Behind vs 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 🙂

And all of a Sudden . . .

Big Ben by Martin Keene

the wait was over. It’s like the Limbo Dial spun itself silly and suddenly I was plunked down on the sidewalk, handed a quarter, and told to be on my merry way. And a merry way it shall be. But still . . .

I can’t help wondering who the timekeeper of this universe is. I can’t help wondering why forward motion stops with a jerk and leaves you dangling on the threshold of a leap. I can’t help wondering what lubricates the rusty key and gets the whole shebang moving again just as if you didn’t spend those months staring at days that crept by, eying you warily to make sure you stayed put, uninvolved, uninvited, fettered and quite inanimate. And most of all, I can’t help wondering why the wheel stops short for so many of us at almost the same exact moment in this anathema called TIME, and how it can be possible for the wheel to wind back up and heave forward in a single motion, the same single motion at the same single moment for those same ones of us again. And perhaps . . . I wonder . . . could groups of us be united not so much by common traits or experiences or hair color or literary loves, but simply because we’ve found ourselves on the same capricious wheel, whirring along at the same speed, sharing the same lulls, the same bumps, the same spurts? Could it be?

And so the wheel begins again and it’s almost as though it never stopped. Flurry replaces lethargy; the mind spins; feet become fleet; busy-ness soothes us and feels good. I don’t know what it meant — the waiting — but I’m glad it’s gone for a time. Godspeed.

I Like to Pretend

When do we lose interest in “let’s pretend?” When do we stop allowing ourselves to kerplunk right down in foreign scenarios, dreams, flights of fancy? I know the why (too many disappointments to risk one more), but when is the when? And (egads) why do we allow it?

I’m “away” for the weekend — my favorite place to be. It almost doesn’t even matter where “away” is — but as places go, this one tops many lists. I’m sipping tea on a deck with a rail made of handcut and hand-reassembled mountain laurel branches — a wood and air mosaic if you will. A bird visits for handouts. A mist rolls across the faces of my hosts: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, is that an eighth? mountain ranges. Peace.

I like to pretend. What if I lived here? What would I hang on this wall, what mountain tomatoes would be the best to slice for lunch, which fruits in the feeder would bring the most colorful birds? And best of all, with ample time to look, what would I see in the faces of the mountain? What whispers would I hear in the night?

My life opens up when I pretend. I live in beautiful spaces, raw places, dine on the exotic or on the field greens I watched a woman in black gather from an empty lot in Greece. I imagine a new wardrobe: floaty and aqua near the sea, downy knits for the hills, pintucks in muted neutrals for France, accessorized by a long and skinny linen bread bag for markets.

But I can pretend just as well in my own backyard. I love to walk at night past the houses that look so alive, so exciting, with lights ablaze, the colors of various rooms leaping out (hello!), while I admire the addition of this or that piece of art. What if I lived here? Or there? Or, ooh! there!? Drop me down in a new surrounding and I fantasize: how would I be different?

Would the deep rose walls warm me? Would a daily infusion of Greek herbs clear my head? Would these blue mountains ground me, or would my spirit heal from the constant tumbling and resurgence of the sea? Am I fully a product of my current environment? 80 percent? 50 percent? How much of myself do I take with me from place to place, and how much of those places do I bring home?

Is there a dividing line between the life I lead and the life I dream, or do they commingle to make me whole?

The Summer We Waited

Waiting, c. Pamela Goode

Between the idea / And the reality / Between the motion / And the act / Falls the Shadow ~ T.S. Eliot

Am I going to fail my Zen test because I can’t love the shadow? I’m trying, really I am. I know good things will come, that fruition takes time, but . . . .  Good things come to he who waits is, I’m sorry, crap. Sitting around waiting never got anyone anywhere.  Good things come to those who DO.  But . . . do what? Where do you go when there’s nowhere to go?

I hate waiting. Of course this is a pointless comment — does anyone like waiting? Waiting eats our time, our patience, our resolve, our certainty, our energy. Waiting sucks, quite literally, and I am sucked out.

The spring seemed (was) rife with possibilities. I worked to schedule my time to accommodate them all, made lists and guides and proposals, gathered supplies and references, made contacts  and pursued leads. And then I moved on to take care of everything else — all the things that don’t wait while we’re waiting.

And it was good, but then . . . nothing.

Patience, patience, all good things take time. Deadlines pass. Excuses made. New deadlines created that will then pass and more waiting, more setting aside new chunks of more focused time to complete what you offered to committed to wanted to complete even though the game keeps changing. And the waiting gets a little less enchanting, a little less hopeful, a little less patient.

I fully believe that for change to occur, we must make the space for it. We must empty ourselves of pre-conceived ideas, old habits, tired ways, and the blindness born of always seeing things in the same fashion. But even being open to change isn’t enough — we have to empty the closets if we want change to stay for a while. But how long do you wait? How long to you wait and believe, with that damn shadow pulling out every sneaky trick in the book to become your new best friend? At what point will I morph from the being-who-welcomes-my-full-destiny to the-lady-with-so-much-time-that-she’s-making-macaroni-mosaics?

Too-abundant and so-rarely-productive surplus of time, I hate you. I want to love you, but I don’t. I want what I’ve worked for, and I want it now. Or even tomorrow, but I’ve had it up to here with this flapping in the breeze.

It’s a funny thing about waiting. Funny in that f***you sort of way. Because in the interim, time does what times does best: it changes us. Not the change we planned for hoped for made space for welcomed, but in some Other way, a way that’s a bit harder to pinpoint, speaking with a softer voice and holding out a very blurry map, but helping herself to my closet space nonetheless.

*This is not the post I meant to write, but this is the post that came out. I meant to point you toward my two newest blogs (that’s what too much time will get you): Wild Hair Adventures, a compilation of my travel essays and photographs (toddler stage), and Ormolulu, a blog to celebrate junking excursions (still quite an infant). Hope you like.

rewrite

the world is topsy turvy on me now
and i am left to wonder
if my center is askew
or simply old
and hardened,
and seeing these new days with eyes
unable or unwilling
to adjust
from my accustomed way
of watching doing caring.
asking soft if i will need to (want to) (or be able to)
re-right (rewrite)
myself ,
or if the universe
will find her quiet balance
now
at last.
or maybe
we will both fly off our axes
toward
the twinkly
stars.

Happy . . . Something

RascalIt’s my favorite season of the year, and I’m speechless. I used to carry on in December with a twinkly grin and a ready, “Merry Christmas!”, one of the few times of the year when I didn’t have to depend on faulty hearing to know what people were saying, because everyone was simply wishing you happiness, family, and sharing. Now, older certainly and wiser mostly, I just smile and nod. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel good. Continue reading

Big Ole Polkie Dots

I’m smack mad in love with those big ole polkie dots. Mondo, I loved you with the black and whites, I loved you with the magentas and the toucan yellows, and I loved you with the little ball hats, but those polkies have my heart forever.

When I think of polka dots, I think of two things: little girls in first dresses, and Julia Roberts at the horse races, looking fabulous and screaming like a sailor. What these images have in common is deceptively simple: truth. The cool thing about children is that  children are ALWAYS who they are — and in this instance, so is the Pretty Woman. This is what we lose as we “grow up”, and Mondo wants to hand it back to us. I’m so ready!
Overwhelmingly, my friends say they love the dress, but couldn’t wear it. 1) Polka dots are for children. 2) Big polka dots are funny looking. 3) I’ll look fat.
1) Yes. 2) Yes.  3) Probably.  4) And I’m gonna feel damn good reconnecting with my inner child, giggling at the giant polkies, and, well, in this Age of McDonalds, doesn’t everything make me look fat?
In truth, very few people could pull off Mondo’s clothes. BUT his clothes have a spirit, a soul, and a philosophical point of view that we, as women, often desperately need, and that is that we need to get WAY past worrying what’s “appropriate”, what our color is, who’s saying we look trashy behind our backs, wear we shop, whose name is on our label, whether we’re too old or too top heavy to wear x, and give ourselves the freedom to let go and have a little fun from time to time. When I hit 40 and had a yearlong meltdown, I stopped caring what other people thought, and one of the ways I reminded myself of that on a daily basis was through my clothes. It was a HUGE awakening for me, and I love Mondo for saying “be who you are and have fun when you can, cause there’s a lot of bad stuff in the world.”
Viva la Big Ole Polkie!

The Power of Thought

I was sitting on the Duke quad quite a few years ago when a guy in a black trench coat walked up and sat down beside me. I recognized him from my Philosophy class, but we had never spoken and I didn’t know his name. He asked me out. Continue reading

Be Still

Stillness is not my forte. Unusually still and silent as a child, I’ve been wiggling my way through life since adulthood. But travel is a mind shift for me, and after days of battering by sea and air, my thoughts are quieting to something like stillness, and not a little bit of awe. Continue reading