Saturday, December 29, 2012

Here's to You, Mr. Blue

    Here's a question to throw at the blues:  What happened in 2012 that made the year valuable?  What good surprises did you discover?  What did you learn from 2012?

      One of the best things to happen in 2012 was to be a part of Tim and Sierra's wedding.  I flew to NYC in April, hung out with relatives, explored NYC on foot, and officiated at one of the nicest weddings I have ever attended.  I was not surprised to have loved the time in NYC but I was surprised at how much fun it was to officiate at this wedding. Tim and Sierra have such a warm group of family and friends and I was delighted to be a  part of that.  I still don't get how they came to ask me to be the officiant but I am glad they did.

     My trip to Santa Monica with my brother Matthew in July was also an unexpected highlight.  I had such a good time spending the days with him and we were ideally matched as far as activity vs solitude.   He is such a thoughtful and reflective man and we had the best conversations, wonderful meals, and played together  at being curious explorers. There was also one especially memorable afternoon of being pure unadulterated kids again at the beach.  Never to be forgotten.

       I was surprised at how enjoyable I found April's  A to Z Writing Challenge to be.  I mean, really?  It's just writing a blog piece for every day for 26 days (all of April with Sundays excepted).  The fun was in coming up with the topics and then meeting new blog writers as a result.  I just didn't expect it to be so pleasurable.  I wrote some ahead of time and have already started thinking about topics for the 2013 Challenge.

    I admit to being so surprised at some of the artwork I created in 2012.  Sometimes I nail it - whatever IT is - when I am painting. Painting  is so mysterious to me.  What the hell?  Why such deep satisfaction from playing with paints, colors, textures, all signifying nothing but the random play of an adult momentarily transformed into a kid again?  I don't know but painting surprises me.

       On a very personal note, I am surprised that I stopped consuming alcohol (on September 11, the day after my birthday).  I might start again some time but it has been a valuable experiment to give it up entirely.  I miss it.  Sometimes I miss it a lot. I miss the relaxation, the surrender to what is in my head.  I miss the disengagement that happens when I consume alcohol.  I miss not being in that sweet place of not caring about anything.  On a similar note, I am shocked that I stopped taking the antidepressant that I have taken for over 8 years.  I NEVER would have predicted that I would stop.  In fact, I used to worry that some doctor some time would stop writing the prescription and that I would be in bad shape.  I stopped in late August because I was curious, curious about what would happen.  I thought maybe nothing would happen, that I wouldn't even notice its absence.  Was I wrong about that!  Holy s**t!  It was a tough, tough transition and took a good three months for the withdrawal symptoms to fully subside.  Now the surprise will be what happens next in the alcohol/medication department.    BTW, I also ceased using weed though that was relatively easy and its absence is not so notable.
      So, Mr Blue, what do you think?  If I can go back and be surprised at some of the events of 2012, perhaps I can muster up some curiosity about 2013?  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gray Blues

       So the blues from yesterday are still keeping me company.  They still insist that they just want to be friends.  I'm not buying it.  Maybe I need to buy it.  Today's sky is cold gray and that gives the blues a gray tinge too.  This post Christmas stretch is such a confusing time.  I began to play with the season on a Saturday night in early December and had some sweet days between December 21 and 27.  They were all quiet days, laced with laughter, shared chores, walks, good company, and moments of satisfying solitude.  

    So why is it all so confusing?  I hate the commercialism and the prodding from big business to buy buy buy yet I also appreciate the pleasure in gift giving.  Our young adult children did a marvelous job of thoughtful gift giving and their dad and I did too.  But there is still a twinge of sadness.  At what?  The part of human life that is sad?  For me, this seems to be a mourning period.  I am sadly aware of the loss of the past, the little kids who once lived here.  I am sadly aware of life when it was fresh and new, when all doors were open, when post Christmas held a promise of something vibrant and pristine.  Now I feel sort of blunted, weary, if you want.  I am skeptical of surprises, skeptical of promises.  

    Mingled with the mourning is fear - fear of the future.  What tragedies are on the horizon that I can't even glimpse right now?  They have to be sitting out there, watching me in my innocence and naiveté, perhaps saying to each other, "Wait til she sees what's next!".  I know I am scared.  Not much I can do about the future though.  That is the tough part. Maybe that was something about youth.  Youth thought she could make things happen.  She thought she could control what was coming down the road.  She thought she would stay vibrant and pristine forever.  Nope.  Along comes Reality and he says, "I am the boss.  I will decide what's what.  So hang on for the ride of your life."

   I had a dream a few weeks ago where I was on a monorail type of conveyance.  The train went up six different poles, each pole covered with vines.  The cars circled around the pole and then came back down, over and over again six times.  The dream ended just as the car was completing its sixth descent. What if each pole represents a decade of my life.  There were only six poles in the dream.  Maybe this dream is telling me that my days are numbered.  Maybe this is my last year on the ride?  Talk about scary.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Blues Blanket

   I am sitting with an umbrella of melancholy this morning.  It doesn't make sense but melancholy seldom makes sense to me.  We had a pleasant Christmas here, low key and mellow.  The adult children were both here for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Although the weather was stormy and wet, we enjoyed a relaxing day indoors.  We exchanged thoughtful gifts yet no one went to the poorhouse as a result.  Our meals were shared productions in the cooking, the consuming, and the cleanup.  No one lost their patience and no one allowed the crankies to enter the day.  In short, it was the kind of Christmas for which I long.

   So why the melancholy?  and why today?  In about two hours, my entire and wonderful extended family will descend upon the house - about 40 people.  This is our tradition and has been for at least 25 years.  Our house is central to most of the family and it is (sort of) big enough to accommodate all.  It is always an enjoyable day.  I get a chance to catch up with those family members that I seldom see and there is a ton of laughter and good will.  My big family is, perhaps, exceptional in that there is no animosity anywhere (or if there is, it is tightly concealed).  We appear to like each other, including the spouses and children of the sibs.  It's a good day.

    So why the melancholy?  I know, I know, there are many among you who immediately say,"Well, duh, the holiday is over!  Of course there is a let down!"  And to those folks I say, "Don't you remember?  Christmas is NOT my season.  I allow it but I seldom embrace it.  And, hello? I still have about ten days off!  I should be jumping for joy!"

   Why the dark place?  Maybe I need to stop asking why and just let the dark place be.  I know that, once the company starts to arrive, I will tuck any leftover blues business away and trot out the smiles and the welcomes and that will be that.  This blues business though bugs me.  He follows me all the time and throws a blanket over what could be a lovely life.  Hah!  That gives me an idea!  I think I will paint the Blues Blanket.  That should be interesting.

    What color will it turn out to be?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Five Years

   When I was about ten my mother gave me a one year diary. I seem to remember that, as a child, she had kept a diary and she thought I would like to do that too.  I did record entries on a fairly consistent basis, the most memorable one being this one:

      I find it interesting now that I was all about the facts.  No emotion,  although that was the first time I remember seeing the adults in my life cry.  Most of the year's entries record such worthy facts as what we had for dinner, guests who might have visited that day, the weather for the day, or some success or disappointment at school.

     Several years later, my mother again gave me a diary but this time it was a Five Year Diary.

    And, yes, that is a photo of that diary.  I clearly was compulsive enough to write something every day, from January 1 of 1966 through December 31 of 1970.  Again, most entries are factual and do not show much emotion.  I can trace my progress from a 12 year old until the December of my senior year.
That diary was immediately followed by yet another one which ran from January, 1971 and stopped very abruptly on January 20, 1973.  Things changed in my world on January 21, 1973 and somehow I think diaries seemed young and foolish at that point.

    Well, guess what?

  My brother Matthew told me that he has a ten year diary and that got me to thinking about those old diaries from way back when.  I began to wonder what I might learn from keeping such a record.  I did some research and found what I think will be a suitable book for the next five years.  The daily spaces are large enough but not too large and, of course, at the moment, it is empty.  I have kept a journal for years but that is more of a collection of essays.  This is a daily, brief entry.  I wonder what direction it will go?  I know I am still compulsive enough to make three minutes every night (or more likely every morning for the previous day) to record something.  Will I feel too young and foolish to complete this book? Will I be closed and protective in this journal?  Will I focus on the facts?  What adventures are waiting?

    I am curious.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Am Not

Warning:  Self centered palaver ahead.  Read at the risk of being bored.

      The author of a book I was recently reading threw out an interesting challenge to his audience.  The book focused, in part, on personal identity.  The author's challenge was to identify yourself by what you are not.  We are so accustomed to seeing ourselves in certain behaviors and patterns but, if you can  identify yourself by what you are not, you might be surprised.  So I gave it a whirl.

1.  I'll just start with the basics.  I am not a foodie.  I care that the food I eat is fresh, organic, without  preservatives and without lots of chemicals.  Someone once described healthy food as stuff your grandparents would have eaten.  Yup.  That works.  Beyond that, I don't have a sensitive pallet.  I won't pay a small fortune to eat in a haute cuisine sort of place and a good peanut butter sandwich on fresh whole grain bread can be heaven.

2.  I am not an extrovert.  I can play one but I am not one.  I am warm, friendly, and socially confident.  I don't bat an eye at addressing a small group of 10 or 12 concerned parents nor does it bother me to address a thousand people gathered in a gym for a graduation ceremony.  No problem.  However,  I very much want and need my alone time, my time to be still and gather my thoughts.  I would far prefer to stay home and read my book then to go to any kind of party.  

3.  Although I am old enough to be one and my children are old enough to have made me one, I am not a grandparent.  I am glad I am not a grandparent.  I am not ready for that.  I want time right now to do my own thing.  I suspect IF AND WHEN grandchildren appear in my life, they will take a chunk of my time.  I will want to be with them and that will add one more thing to my to do list.  I am hoping they don't arrive on the scene until I have had more time to figure out some things about life.

4.  I am not a big fan of television.  I can take it or leave it.  Sure, I have a handful of programs I like to catch sometimes but it is no where near the end of the world if I never see them.  I tivo stuff and watch it if and when it is convenient.  If I lived alone, I doubt that the tv would be on for more than a couple of hours a week.  The reality show genre is not interesting to me, nor are cooking shows (see #1), fashion shows, quiz shows (though I can play a mean round of Jeopardy), network news, most situation comedies, most one hour drama type shows.  

5.  I am not a joiner.  I prefer solitary pursuits.  I don't now, nor have I ever, been a big fan of being in a church, on a team, in a club, or part of a group.  I read a lot but I don't do book clubs.  I have a connection to the spiritual but organized religion is so not me.  I love to ride a bike but I refuse to participate in any biking clubs or group rides.  I am hiker but not in a group. You get the idea.  The one exception:  I will take classes and I will be an active participant.

6.  I am not a "keep up with the Jones" kind of person.  I like what I like and I want what I want but not because someone else has it.  I don't really want that much anyway.  I want my books, my Apple computer toys, a few new rags two or three times a year, an adventure here or there.  I am happy with my ten year old VW bug, my 15 year old bicycle, and my one hundred year old house.

7.  I am not a crusader.  I support lots of political and social justice causes but I am not going to be out there leading the charge.  I will wear my Obama button or make donations to causes but I will not go door to door soliciting votes or funds.

8.  I am not a shopper.  That doesn't mean that I don't from time to time go shopping but it is not my chosen form of entertainment.  I can get a kick out of spending a Saturday with my young adult daughter, wandering around a local and lovely outdoor shopping area, but that's as much about spending time with her as it is about the shopping end of it.

9.  I am not a musician.  That's not to say I don't appreciate music.  I do, although I am selective about the music to which I will listen.  I am a huge fan of silence and would generally prefer to be in a house without a sound track.  When I eat out, I favor visiting with my dining companion (including myself, if I happen to be my own dining companion) over listening to some canned music.  I do enjoy listening to live musical performances but then they are the focus of my attention, not eating.

10.  I am not a snow person.  Even more basically, I am not a cold weather person.  Here in NorCal there are lots of people who love to drive over to the Sierra Nevada and ski, ski, ski (or, alternatively snow board, snow board, snow board).  Too much money, too much physical pain from the cold, too many people, too much driving.  Just plain too much.  I will always choose the warm weather over the cold weather.  I would not make it in a part of the country that has to deal with snow and ice from October through April.

       What was the point of the exercise?  I don't know exactly but it was harder than I expected it to be.  I can easily list all the things that I am but change it around and I have to struggle a bit.  How about you? Easy or hard to think of what you are not?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter's Arrival

Welcome back, Winter,

I've been thinking about what a bum deal you got.  Talk about roles in a family!  Your beautiful sisters are celebrated by so many.  Look at Ms. Spring.  She is fresh and tender, full of softness and pastels.  She dances in on breezes and bunnies and her coyness makes her so very attractive.  Then along comes sexy summer.  She is HOT with lots of skin showing and a come hither sort of look.  She tempts with luscious iced drinks, long leisurely days, and warm, tender nights.  Gotta love her for all that vitality.  And, finally, the queen of boldness, Autumn, meanders in.  Autumn flashes brilliant color with so much poise and nerve.  She takes over the stage and cannot be hidden.  Her deep, smooth voice is heard in the wind that shakes the dazzling leaves off the trees and her intensity is visible everywhere.

But you, Winter?  You they call Old Man Winter.  You don't come on stage with a legacy of vitality or sexiness or boldness.  You come with a weary eye, wrapped in scarves, gloves and boots.  Your gift is gray and wet and tends to make people cranky.  Not fair!  I admit that, historically, I have wished away your presence, hanging on through the sunless, dismal days of January and February, counting the hours until Spring arrived.   And, likely I will do that again this year.  But, for a brief spell here in December, I have made it a point to find beauty in your arrival.   I have made it a point to carry my camera on walks around town and I have looked for the rich starkness you provide.  It has been a delight to look for your entry into the world this year.  What do you think of your portraits?

I have decided that, in your own way, you have much to offer the world. Thanks for coming along!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On Being a Robot

“Be self aware, rather than a repetitious robot” 
 Bruce Lee

     Odd revelation from the other day:  I was born a robot.  No, really.  It's not a bad thing.  It just is.  I was born a robot and someone wound me up from day one.  You know? That little key thing in the back of the old fashioned robots?  The key that you twist and the robot moves and doesn't stop moving until the key is unwound?

    Robot?  Yes, I think maybe most of us human beings are born robots.   I know I was born into a family and into a culture whose directions dominated my life.  This is not to say that it has been a bad life.  Quite the contrary but, from where I sit after almost six decades, I can see now that the path was pretty much  pre-scripted.  I suppose I could have deviated from the path but that wasn't part of my programming.

     I like what Bruce Lee says above.  Maybe now I can finally find a way to take the key out.  Hmmm - a bit risky that.  Perhaps the robot will stop moving then?

Thursday, December 6, 2012


“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” 
 Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I wish I understood what this means.  I LOVE the way the words sound.  The words resonate in my head but I don't get it.  I need examples.
Got any?

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Room

  Here's an odd revelation.  I recently discovered an ideal place to which I can retreat after work.  It's a quiet room, about 14'x14'.  It has a high ceiling and a lovely large south facing window.  The walls in this room are a creamy yellow with two of the walls having deeply rich wooden wainscoting. The high ceiling's soft ivory colored paint extends about 10 inches down the wall and the seam between ivory and yellow is covered with a delicate wooden strip. It probably won't surprise you that the floor is a beautiful light oak hardwood.  About two thirds of the hardwood is covered with a richly textured deep burgundy rug. That large glass window is actually comprised of a lot of smaller panes and those panes allow the yellow warmth of the sun or the gray heavy of the clouds to see and be seen.

         There's not a lot of anything in this room.  There is a comfortable easy chair with a soft footstool. A soft ivory/green/brown plaid cotton blanket is tossed over the armrest.  There are a couple of wooden chairs, a couple of stools (the kind that artists sit on), and an old library table.  The chairs and stools  have stacks of books on them as if that is their only purpose.  The table is a little dusty and has some scattered papers but that's about all.  I found out that I have permission to go to this room anytime I want and so I spent a significant amount of time there this week.  

      What did I do there?  Not much.  I picked up a couple of the books and flipped through them but put them back.  I tried out the easy chair and one day even took a short nap in the late afternoon sun.  I spent a good chunk of time just looking out the window, wondering about the world outside.

  If you want to see this room, try using this map:

If you get lost, this map might be better:

See you there!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Review (Part 4)

        Back on January 1st  of this year, I made and posted a list of dreams for 2012.   I reviewed that list in Marchin June, and once again in September.   Throughout the year, I occasionally referred to that list and, dare I say it?  I used it as a guide for some of what I did in 2012.  I plan to make another such list on January 1st of 2013 but I want the new list to be fresh and not tainted by a recent review.  To finish off 2012, I will note three things that I can still focus on for the remaining 31 days of the year and I will pat myself on the back for taking three other steps in the direction I wanted to go way back last January.

       Ugh.  I started this post with such enthusiasm but then, when I took a close look at the list, all I saw was a clear portrait of failure.  I haven't been taking Ellie for afternoon walks.  I can barely get myself home from work, let alone go out on a neighborhood walk!  I have not spent three minutes a day stretching (though I do spend 15 minutes or so three times a week stretching).  I did not go to Ohio, nor Alaska, nor on a solitary road trip, nor regularly to the Farmer's Market here in town.  I didn't test drive the new VW Beetle (but I am quite satisfied with my little Oskar beetle so that is okay) nor have I had much fun with getting dressed in the morning.  I find myself just wearing the same old stuff because it's fast and easy.  But, lest I be too mean to myself, all of these things that I didn't do?  It's okay with me.  There were reasons they didn't happen and no one died as a result of me not doing any of them so it's okay.  Let's see if they show back up on the 2013 list.

         There WERE a few things that I did manage to do.  I DID get a snail mail birthday card in the mail to all my siblings (except Noel but that's only because his birthday is yet to come.  I will get that one in the mail, I know).  I DID take lots of photos and even posted some of them to this blog.  I do like doing that and I imagine something involving photography might show up on the 2013 list.  For sure, I paid attention to what the beautiful Ms Meg had to say.  That young woman is a bright light in my life and often brings me away from the serious side and into the playful side of life.  I will also give myself points for not being so paralyzed by the notion of change.  My curiosity seems to be overwhelming the fear of change and I kinda like that.

         I'm glad I thought to review my to do list for 2012 this morning.  I am looking forward to seeing what gets thrown down for 2013.  I imagine some of the same kinds of things will find their way onto the list but I also am confidant that there will be some surprises too.  I'll let you know on January 1, 2013.