Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Perfect Day Four - Finding a WAY

The Disciple classes were about finding my way, my spiritual path, and I responded to them. Although I sometimes wonder if Christianity has the answers I need, and I recognize that there are other ways of looking at our relationship with God, I need my church. I need to be there with my church family and feel how worship calms my soul, the ritual and readings, the sharing of joys and concerns, the moments of greeting people and feeling their sorrow. In church on Day Four, I cried to hear how a father of fifty died during heart surgery, how one of our members has mixed feelings about moving to be near her daughter, about a couple whose unborn twins have mixed-together blood and one of the children will die. Life is not fair. People are complicated.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Being There for Others - An Artist's Date

Interrupted by phone calls, my Artist’s Date wasn’t perfect. But life gets in the way and one thing I want to get right is being there for other people when they need me. I drove to Huntington Beach, parked by Huntington Playhouse across the street, took a stroll to limber me up. Down the tall stairs and on the beach, I went with the flow and found white, green, and maroon beach glass in all sizes and shapes on the beach, a gift from Lake Erie. It was a huge surprise. Looking out at the lake, I took pictures of the seagulls on the rocks at the end of a breakwall, felt happy about the couple sitting there together, her camera pointed up to capture a flying bird, the rocky shore with its cliffs above and sand between, the blue sky, the Cleveland skyline in the hazy distance, beautiful. I sat on the sand and let the waves calm me like ugi breath in yoga.

Up the stairs I went, under the bridge after passing a couple so obviously enamored with each other that I was surprised they still had their clothes on, emerging in the woods on the path near the playhouse again. I wandered down the meandering path bordered by flowers and tall grasses and flowering bushes. I walked up the stairs to the coffee shop, housed in a Victorian house and entered into a conversation with the barrista and a 65-year-old man about how to store coffee and a New York Times article that interviewed a coffee grower in Guatemala. How do I store my coffee? In the Starbucks bag it came in, next to my coffee maker.

Coffee in hand, I stepped into the gallery and noticed the greeting cards and jewelry and paintings for sale, walked into the gallery showing the juried exhibition and looked at uninspired sketches of bodies and was disappointed enough that I was ready to leave. An artist-volunteer asked me if I had questions and told me a bit about the place and Baycrafters, none of it new, and when she asked me how my day was going, I said, “I’m having a perfect day.” We found common ground when she admitted that The Artist’s Way changed her life and gave her permission to be the artist she is today.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Razor's Edge - A Lesson for Us All

I suggested reading The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham to book group, but they wouldn’t think of it.  Their loss.  The book was narrated by a writer who seemed to have an “in” with everyone who had money, kind of a fly on the wall, watching the rich and connected people he knows and settling on Larry, whose ambition is “The acquisition of knowledge.” Larry’s a sage, the guy with all the answers, and I think that was Maugham’s meaning. But we’re never sure what he’s looking for, sometimes it seems to be God, sometimes something else, while he just says he’s doing nothing. He could be contrasted with Isabel and with her Uncle Elliott who is always introducing people, convinced it’s important. We get a rare soliloquy halfway through the book. “Pascal said that the heart has no reasons that reason takes no account of. If he meant what I think, he meant that when passion seizes the heart it invents reasons that were not only plausible but conclusive to prove that the world is well lost for love . . . It may be then that one is faced with the desolation of knowing that one has wasted the years of one’s life, that one’s brought disgrace upon oneself, endured the frightful pan of jealousy, swallowed every bitter mortification, that one’s expended all one’s tenderness, poured out all the riches of one’s soul on a poor drab, a fool, a peg on which one hung one’s dreams, who wasn’t worth a stick of chewing gum” But Isabel isn’t listening.

Larry is thinking of the Absolute. “It is eternal because of its completeness and perfection are unrelated to time. It is truth and freedom.” It is not the personal God that mankind usually seeks. “I myself think that the need to worship is no more than the survival of an old remembrance of cruel gods that had to be propitiated. I believe that God is within me or nowhere. If that’s so, whom or what am I to worship—myself?” He’s encountered Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, and they’re all the same, the Absolute. He found a Guru who “taught that we are all grater than we know and that wisdom is the means to freedom. He taught that it is not essential to salvation to retire from the world, but only to renounce the self. He taught that work done with no selfish interest purifies the mind and that duties are opportunities afforded to man to sink his separate self and become one with the universal self.” The narrator concludes that “I am of the earth, earthy; I can only admire the radiance of such a rare creature . . . Larry has been absorbed, as he wished, into that tumultuous conglomeration of humanity, distracted by so many conflicting interests, so lost in the world’s confusion, so wishful of good, so cocksure of the outside, so diffident within, so kind, so hard, so trustful, and so cagey, so mean and so generous, which is the people of the United States." Of all the characters in the book, only Larry achieved happiness. “And however superciliously the highbrows carp, we the public in our heart of hearts all like a success story; so perhaps my ending is not so unsatisfactory after all.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Letting Go of Worry - Perfect Day Two

It was also hard not to become worried about getting into our seats at the Hannah Theater in time, but we were there ten minutes before the curtain rose. I love the Hannah because it’s so intimate and feels like being in a night club with the bar and cushioned lounge seating in the back of the theater. We were in the second row, and it was fabulous. The first thing I said was, “they’re not dressed in period clothing” because the men were wearing tuxedos from the 19th century, but they managed to pull off Elizabethan garb for the kings and the queen and her maids in waiting. I had to let go of that—the theater company used what they had. And then I let myself be pulled into the magic of Shakespeare’s language expertly delivered.

And I thought about Dr. Tener. He didn’t answer my last letter. He admitted he wasn’t doing well in his last letter, and now . . . silence. Death is the menace that drives us forward and then stops us in our tracks. We are so immortal. It was a sort of worry, me thinking about Dr. Tener. He was so full of life and vibrancy when he paced back and forth in front of the class seated in Satterfield Hall dramatically playing the roles of Macbeth and Hamlet and Rosalind, his cowboy boots and jeans and turtleneck sweaters setting him apart as much as his passion for words. He was a poet, an architect, an actor, a builder, a gardener, but mostly he was a person who I loved for his way of looking at life.

We immortal beings are always trying to beat Death. With my Dad, we’re worried that if we don’t fight this Cancer and beat it, we didn’t love Dad enough. Because we worry about his pain and suffering and what life will be when he’s gone and what it is that he will have left other than the memories we hold dear. We need to do our best, and let go of worry because we have limited control.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Remembering Those We Love

I bought Reba, whose husband just died, a little book she can carry in her purse to write memories in. The saying on the card is that when someone dies you their presence is turned into memories. I love the whole concept of remembering someone after they die, of having them live on in our memories.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Being in the Moment - Perfect Day One

And then we were ten women with ugi breath doing cat and cow rolls rhythmically until we sprang up into downward-facing dog. I felt the pull on my calves, straightened my back, balanced my weight evenly onto my hands and my feet and tried to get my heels to the ground, which never happens. I didn’t fret. I went with the flow as we rolled forward into plough, chataranga-ed to the floor, and brought our hearts up into upward facing dog. I paid attention to my feet that tended to sickle and cause chronic pain. I listened to my breath, the breath of the women around me, the sound of our instructor’s voice, the rhythmic chanting music, and smelled the lemon verbena scent on my skin. I felt how strong my thighs were as I bent my right knee and placed my left foot at a 45-degree angle behind me and rose up into Warrior I and spread out to Warrior II. I felt the lengthening of my back as I bent forward humbly and came back to extended side angle twisting my neck up and my arm near my ear, one long length of body from my foot to the tip of my hand. Before I knew it we were in shavasana and I was listening to the soothing music and the instructor’s voice telling us to not fall asleep, to stay present, to just let go and be in the present.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Cookbook for Life

I love the long blocked-out writing time on the weekends. It has to be kept sacred. One doesn't really tune into the muse when writing a cookbook as one does when writing a novel, but it's satisfying to make the connections between food and where I was at particular points in my life when I started cooking some of my favorites. I discovered quiche at a Christmas Party in 1978 and when Paul and I moved to Pittsburgh and someone bought me the Vegetarian Epicure, quiche became the center of many meals, including those when company came to share our table. I took a picture of the broccoli and mushroom quiche I made for dinner the other day, for the cookbook.

Monday, October 22, 2012

30 Perfect Days

In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron asks us to imagine a perfect day. Most of us will dream of a day without work, without worries, without concerns, a day when everything goes perfectly, a day when you can be yourself and do whatever you want to do.

Why not have 30 Perfect Days in a row? What if those days are imperfect? What if the days are as perfect as we can have them be in our lives of having to make money, maintain our property, and care for our loved ones?  How many of us want the perfect life? We think we know what it is, but we somehow make it about living in Tuscany or being a writer or owning a bed and breakfast or being a missionary in Africa. How about if we just embrace the life we have, day by day?

Thirty days is a month, twelve months become a year, and a year becomes a lifetime. Maybe I could have the perfect life. Ten days ago, I woke up at 5:00 AM to go to yoga. I started the first of thirty perfect days. A month of days strung together like a necklace of pearls, perfect in their wisdom, beauty, and possibility. I stayed in the moment, paid attention, responded with joy, and avoided negativity.

Guess what?  I've had ten perfect days so far.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Voice and Poetry

I wrote that I wanted to make my journal into poetry, but then I lose my voice. Or don’t I? Or am I writing poetry by using my voice? Is my voice, and what I write, poetry? I think I hear a rhythm as I write, but do I? Or am I just imagining that at the moment?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Harnessing the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspiring story of William Kamkwamba, a boy with no education, reading lots of books in his village library in Malawi and learning how to make windmills. He used discarded motor parts, junkyard refuse, whatever he could hoard in his room that he thought might be helpful, while in search of a dream to bring light to a village that went to sleep at 7PM when the sun went down. They lost hours.

The famine in his land and his family’s struggles, all of Africa’s struggles, were captured in the book, and it opened my eyes to how a country can literally be without food and how it can be controlled by only a few people and how powerless people can feel when the land fails to yield a crop. Entire lives are ruined, time cannot be captured again, a young boy loses years. In this case, he missed 4-5 years and then went to school when he was a young adult. He was one of the lucky ones—he survived while thousands of people, who foraged for what little food they could while the light went out of their eyes, died. He not only survived, but he eventually was admitted to a boarding school so he could study, his sense of possibility still strong, and that’s part of what makes the story so good

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Farms and Foods of Ohio

Marilou Suszko has written about food for years, and in her book Farms & Foods of Ohio, we have a culmination of her love of where she lives and the food it brings to the table. It’s a thoughtful and instructional look at what it’s like to be a farmer in the twenty-first century and a call to all of us to support our local farms. I appreciate her passionate descriptions and her cause. Her recipes are unique—I have never seen a recipe for raspberry cream custard. I didn’t realize she teaches culinary classes and has a connection with the cooking school in Vermilion; that would explain her sidebar for turkey brined in buttermilk: “To brine or not to brine? It comes down to a question of personal taste. Traditional brining is a process that enhances the flavor and increases the moisture content of lean meats without using a salt, sugar, and water solution.” Hmmm, I’ve never thought about brining.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Highest Tide - A Tribute to Marine Life

I just finished The Highest Tide, a novel by Jim Lynch, and I loved it. At the beginning I was thinking about how slow it was going with all the marine-life description, but that was part of the charm of this coming-of-age book about the summer of a 13-year-old boy who discovers a giant squid, a rare starfish, and many other strange things in Puget Sound near his home on Olympia’s coast. We come to love this curious and intelligent boy; Lynch successfully takes us into his head and allows us to feel what it’s like to love nature and be conflicted about growing up. “People usually take decades to sort out their view of the universe, if they bother to sort at all. I did my sorting during one freakish summer in which I was ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine.”

We get a ton of philosophical views here, including many from Rachel Carson who wrote in The Sea Around Us, “’There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.’ How do you read that sentence, yawn and turn out the lights?” And how do you read his descriptions of life in the sea without being intrigued?" The narrator writes: “Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are houseflies, here for one flash of light.” As he grows and synchronicity and the responsive universe happens to him, he writes “It wasn’t that I was starting to feel that I actually had some higher calling, it’s that I’d begun to feel as though I’d received a bigger role than I’d auditioned for.” Miles said people need to pay attention, and then they did. They came out to the Bay and started categorizing all the sea life and found it amazing, all those scientists and people who lived there who thought they knew what was going on but didn’t. “At the end of The Sea Around Us, she [Carson] summed up the entire history and role of the ocean in two sentences: ‘In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life and receives in the end, after, it may be, many transmutations, the dead husks of that same life. For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.’”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sharing Our Gifts

So now I’m home again. The weekend swept me into a world of friendship and support and big goals and lots of energy. The Sharing Our Gifts weekends are amazing. They are my sisters, my mothers, my daughters. They are my people I can talk with any time without reserve, without fear, without knowing judgment. They let me do what I want to do and say what I want to say. They tell me everything is going to be okay, something I need to hear and know more than anything. Everything is going to be okay. Why do I need someone to tell me that?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Envisioning a Dream

Most people I know are aware that my life's dream is to spend my days writing while running a bed and breakfast that hosts retreats and people who come in and out the door with stories to tell. Every time I visit the Idlewyld, I feel that dream strong within me, and I see what Joan and Dan have created over the last 24 years, and I am awed. A friend told me that I need to envision that dream, keep it in my heart constantly, and somehow, someway, the universe will respond. She says the B&B is tied up with my writing, and while I spoke with my friend, I touched on that dream again, the one I've had for almost twenty years, and I wonder if God will provide a way, maybe a different place, a different house, maybe something altogether different from what I envision. So is it a good thing to envision when that vision will inevitably be replaced with something else?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Walking the Path to God Connection

Oftentimes we don’t know why we choose a particular path—certainly it’s that way for me. I sometimes have to go with my gut, and that’s what I did when I chose to be part of Disciple study again. I’m reading about the kings of Judah and their evil and good and God’s turning against them and to them again, and the message is that we should avoid outside influences and focus on the Temple, on our temple, our traditions, our heritage, and walk with the Lord. I go this way and that in my way of thinking, from believing that being with nature and doing yoga and writing from the heart are a way that is just as good as being in church and fellowship with Christians. Is it a selfish seeking to look for other ways to find that God connection? Perhaps, when you look at it from the viewpoint of the chronicler in Chronicles. I am a child of the church, of the United Methodist Church—should I not make that my focus? The Artist’s Way and synchronicity and my God connection have been my way to creativity and salvation, have helped me on my journey. Is it time to turn back? No, it's time to embrace it because it's all part of my journey, part of what I personally need to grow.