Friday, January 5, 2018

Hermitage


My mother used to say that sometimes we are set aside in life so that we may have the opportunity for reflection.  But it still confounded her that it seemed that I had been set aside by life at all times.  Honestly, it sometimes confounds me, too; and especially so lately when I have been confronted greatly by the need to endure.

The end of 2017 was uncommonly difficult.  My dear old cat Daisy went home to heaven on December 19.  My car broke down on December 23.  And my refrigerator quit working on December 28.

In the meanwhile I have been clustered round with stray and throwaway kitties that I cannot afford to feed but really must.  I'd only meant to fed Cleo and Byron.  But now there's Moonpie and another I've only seen from the back.

Life is full of trials and testing.  Perhaps it all wouldn't matter so much if there was money but of money I have none.  The car remains where I parked it two weeks ago.  There is simply nothing I can do about it.  The refrigerator stands unplugged and unrepairable.  I want to replace it with a dorm fridge but can't, although I found one on Craigslist for only a dollar.....after all, I can't buy what I can't travel to collect.  Oh my.  Oh well.  The only direction is forward.

And the weather has been cold.  So cold!  For a person with circulatory problems, the pain for hands and feet is horrid.  In a house set on a concrete slab with no insulation in the walls and the heat set on 60, you can just imagine how deeply chilling it can be.....but really I hope you can't.  It's not pleasant.

The interesting matter in all of these trials is that of solitude.

On December 29, I had to ask my good neighbor to carry me to the dollar store to buy cat kibble and toilet paper.  It was nice to visit with him and with the cashier who is friendly to me.  I have not seen any other person since.  Not one.  There's a friend who contacts me daily by text or by cell (we each check to see that the other is alive and kicking) but that's my only contact with the world (not accounting for the web, of course).

I am so grateful now when I think of all the time I have been sidelined by illness and other difficulties, when I remember the two years that I had to live in a bubble environment, when I consider how I was always expected as a child to remain quiet and alone in my room. 

Experience prepares us for things.  My experience has been in learning solitude.  I can imagine other things I might have preferred to have been ready for but this will do; this will do just fine. 

It's not hard being on my own.  I don't mind time in hermitage.  The world is still an interesting place.  There are movies and TV shows online.  There are books to read.  There is much to do.  And there is so much to plan for. 

I believe with all my heart that there is goodness to come.  Somehow.  It will take work.  I will pray for strength and I will keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Believe it or not, life is good.
Being set aside is not such a bad thing after all.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Reaching for Light


It's winter.  It's the sort of winter weather we don't often get a lot of in my little corner of South Mississippi.  In fact, I've seen perhaps five winters like this in the three decades I've lived on this little plot of ground.

Cold.  Strings of days with highs not reaching 40 degrees.  Long nights of hard freezes with temperatures in the teens and 20's. 

Now that might not sound like much if you're accustomed to it, but I'm not and I can't cope with cold anyway.  I shut down in many ways and I hunker down in the warmest space I can find.  It's hard to find a way to fight back against it.

One of the things that has been worrying me during the past weeks of cold is cats.  I've been caring for two strays. 

Byron (who was likely born feral) appears to be a Himalayan mix with lynx point markings; he's lame on a rear paw and fiercely independent.  I agreed to care for Byron so that he would stop being a bother to my good neighbors but I wasn't too happy when Byron brought me his girlfriend.  Cleo is a gray-brown tabby who seems to be a throwaway.  She obviously hasn't been treated kindly by others because she is fearful that hands are for hitting and because there is a BB pellet lodged near her little ribs.

Cleo, it turns out, is a cat of character.  She has stayed determinedly near me during difficult times this winter, and I've appreciated her empathetic presence.  Despite the cold, she won't agree to come in the house, so I've made a pallet for her on the porch with an old bedcover and a fake-fur throw.  Cleo sleeps there happily at night.

This morning, the sunrise was glorious.  The skies were clear finally, and the sun was bright.  When I went to feed the cats, they were not on the porch.  I saw them outside sitting next to a pair of sawhorses that I'd left after painting.  The kitties were seeking the sun, raising their faces to the light, basking in that small solar warmth.

But for Cleo that wasn't quite enough:  she had to try harder, to reach higher.  As I watched, she jumped up on top of the sawhorses to get just that little bit closer to the light.  And then she raised her face again in praise of warmth. 

Perhaps we should all be more like Cleo--braving despite fear, staying the course, and always reaching higher.

Life is good.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Unicorn and a Goal of Five


I like telling myself bedtime stories. 

Yeah, I know that sounds silly but, as a person who has a great deal of difficulty in getting to sleep, I've learned that if I tell myself long complicated stories with lots of details I will eventually become drowsy.  Typically I repeat the same bits of the stories over and over again because the details will help me nod off but also because I don't want to end the story.....if I do, I'll have to start a new one and that will leave me sleepless for a week.  Some stories will go on for months while there are endless revisions and re-tellings; there are other stories that I have come back to time and again for years.

Do you wanna know what the stories are?  Well, sorry, I'm not gonna tell you.  If I did, they wouldn't work so the secrets must remain mine to keep.

There's one thing I'd like to share, though, and it's something that I learned from a character in one of my stories.  Believe it or not, I can actually find out new stuff from someone who only exists in my own head! 

This fictitious elderly gentleman is a reliable person who is known for giving sage advice on making goals, and he tells the same thing to his employees as well as his family.  It's a simple plan to make a list of six things only.  Not four, not seven, not ten.  Six. 

The plan for the six goals works like this:  the first three items on the list should be things that you are reasonably capable of doing and that you can accomplish within the near future.  Working on those three things will give you a sense of ability so that you will comfortably be able to move on to other tasks.  The next two items should be more difficult and they will require more time to complete; you might even need to learn new skills or have to study to get the necessary knowledge.  Working on those two things will help you to become stronger and to find more faith in your will to achieve.  These first three goals will be constantly updating and changing, so you should expect them to be in flux.  The next two will necessarily remain longer on your list.

The sixth item is unlikely to change.  Ever.  It should be very, very difficult to achieve and the time it could take to accomplish is unlimited--indeed the sixth item may never be fully within your grasp.  It should be your deepest hope and your sweetest dream.  And you will call it your Unicorn.  You can have only one Unicorn.  Never more than that.  This will give you focus and keep you on course.  Although you might elect to tell others your first five goals, the Unicorn must remain a secret hidden in your heart; if you tell anyone, the Unicorn loses its power.

I've been thinking about the goals lists for the character in my story.  But I never really connected that to my own need (and admitted inability) to set goals for myself.  So in one of those silly Aha! moments that I tend to have while I'm chatting to myself alone in the car while driving to the Post Office, it suddenly came to me that perhaps I need to try to maintain a Unicorn and a Goal of Five.

Consistency has always been my hobgoblin.  I never do anything the same way twice.  When I make lists of things to do, I immediately rebel and turn entirely to stone.  Although I am utterly inconsistent, incongruously I am also deeply persistent.  The two sides rub together in me in the most irritating ways but I wonder if the charm of the Unicorn could work on me.  After all, it's a gift from my own imagination. 

Will I tell you if this works for me?  Probably not.  But I am sharing so that you can try it out for yourself if you like.  Maintaining a bit of whimsy along with some common sense seems like a wise way to face the world.

Life is good.
Go chasing after a Unicorn.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Gift of the Unexpected


Aphasia is simply a fact of life for me and has been so since I was about 27, and I forgot how to read.  When you're a PhD candidate, this is not a good thing.  Not at all.  My life as I knew it was over, and I had no choice but to do differently.

Ever since, I forget easily.  I turn my back, walk away, and it's like something has never been.  This can be a problem when it comes to things like laundry left in the washer or dirty dishes waiting in the sink.  I've even walked away in the middle of a meal without realizing I had do so.  I'm not ignoring things.  I've forgotten, quite literally, that they were even there.  It's more than a bit frustrating to find a proverbial trail of breadcrumbs from the unfinished duties of my days.  But there they are.  And I have to be honest enough to say that this sort of situation will remain unchanged as long as I am here on this planet.  Eventually stuff gets done.  (This is no complaint; merely an explanation--what I deal with on a daily basis is something most folks never have to know personally, and thank goodness for that.)

But sometimes there's joy in forgetting and finding again.  And this morning it made me laugh.

I should explain first that I've been plagued by the dustiness of my bedroom.  It's autumn; that's when I clean house.  Now I know that spring is the traditional time for cleaning but I believe that tradition is rooted in Northern climes where dust and detrious collects during the winter months while the house is shut up to keep the heat IN.  Here in the Deep South, especially here in South Mississippi, we have little winter (perhaps six weeks) and a great deal of summer (about nine months).  So it is autumn when I want to push the summer's accumulation out the door because the house has been shut so long to keep the heat OUT.  It makes sense when you think about it.  Plus autumn cleaning prepares home for the holidays.

A week or so ago, I gave the bedroom a good going-over with a damp dustcloth, from the ceiling fan down.  Picture frames, door frames, all those fiddly little edges that antique furniture tends to have, all the little bits and pieces that I enjoy displaying on every available surface.....as I've said before, I'm no minimalist.  I like stuff.  Lots of stuff.  It makes me happy.

The problem was that I ran out of energy before I ran out of places that wanted dusting and, recovering as I still am from walking pneumonia, the rest of the cleaning had to wait.  This morning I didn't want to wait anymore--the dust bunnies in the corners and under the bed were showing their teeth. 

The bedroom is small-ish (about 9 X 10.5) and this house is very short on storage so the space under the bed serves as a prime place to keep boxes full of sheets and blankets and curtains.  The boxes I keep under my antique cast iron bed (the base of which is fully a foot off the floor and thus offers excellent space for storage) really haven't varied for twenty years or so, and that's the only reason I recall what is in them.  That's why I was surprised this morning to find more than 4 plastic bins under the bed.  There was also an opaque tote of some sort--big and quite heavy.....but what was it?  I didn't have any idea and certainly no memory of having placed it under the bed.

I peered inside.  Green, the sort of avocado green that was popular back in the 1960's.  That's nice; I like avocado green.  Satin.  Also nice; I've always loved satin stuff.  Brocade embroidery of delicate wispy leaves in deep gold; very pretty and something else I adore.  But what was this green thing exactly?  I had no idea.  And then light finally dawned when I fully opened the container:  it was an eiderdown!  A truly vintage German eiderdown!  It was the real deal, not like those new "down" blankets that are just tolerable and not really warm.  This was meant to be weighty and wonderfully warm for winter.

When I helped my German-born friend pack up her house last year prior to her move to Alabama, she was down-sizing seriously to move into a single room in her daughter's home.  Eiderdowns require space to store, and she knew her square footage would be severely limited.  Her family, she said, wouldn't be interested and wouldn't value it, so she gave that precious heirloom Eiderdown to me.  And I promised to keep it safe.  Well, I have kept it safe.....but I also forgot it.  And that's why it made me laugh out loud for joy this morning.  I'll be using that Eiderdown this short winter.

Friendship keeps us warm in more ways than one.
Life is good.

 Although I tried, I could not take a picture that would do this lovely Eiderdown justice so this simple snap will have to do.

And So I Return.....


We all, sometimes, need a vacation.  A time away.  As my mother used to call it, "a time out of mind" where we think of other things. 

I have been resting. Peering through layers of sediment to see what they might mean--cutting the head off the snake was a start, and there's always more work to do.  No matter how old we grow, we must continue learning. 

Although I can't change my life, I can change myself.  And I know that no one can truly begin all over again.  But we are presented with bright possibilities with every sunrise.  We must not waste them.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Time to Cut the Head Off the Snake


So I haven't been writing as much lately.....I like to write, clear the air, chase out the cobwebs.  But it feels like I've mostly been complaining a lot and that's not something I generally approve of. 

We've all got trials and troubles.  We've all got losses and crosses to bear.  The current trend seems to be that we should all blare our agony across the wide world.  But I don't like that trend.  And I most certainly don't care for it when I do it.  The fact of the matter is that I only vent here because there's nowhere else to do so and because no one in the real world is listening (which can be really much more painful than you need to know).

There comes a time to cut the head off the proverbial snake, and I've been trying to make decisions about a variety of those matters in my life.  It's hard to know what to do.  So I make no promises, and I'm still trusting God.

For now I'll keep writing here because some folks appear to be reading (heaven only knows why).  Maybe I'll try to be more organized.  Maybe I'll even follow some sort of theme, although it's very unlike me.  It's my nature to be persistent rather than consistent but, hey, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made"  (Psalm 139:14)  so I'm just fine the way I am even though my health doesn't work so very well.

This past week has been tough (pneumonia hit me as I thought it might).  This past week I've received a little good news but also more bad.  This past week I haven't felt remotely motivated or capable of anything. 

But I refuse to give in.

Here's what I think:  Even if you can only do one single thing, then that's the place to start.  Find a place and take a stand.  It's okay to fail; but try anyway--at least you learn in the attempt.  Keep walking forward; don't look back (or at least don't look back too much).

I said this elsewhere this week and, unfortunately, no one took account of it (although there are many in that place who are in need of the thought).  It's an old saying but I believe it's worthwhile:
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

So, it's time to cut the head off the snake. 
That snake is called Complaining. 

We draw energy to ourselves through our beliefs and our actions and our words.  I need more sweetness in my life.  I need more light.  I need hope.  While there's not a lot I can do about what others do and say, I am in charge of what I produce.  And I want my works to speak well of me. It all starts with my own heart.

Looking forward.
I hope you will to.
Life is good.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mindfulness and the Minimal Effort of Avoidance

A few months back, a short bypass road opened up in my little town.  (Actually I live outside of town but that's beside the point.)  That bypass takes a mile off my journey to the PO, so I use it more often than not.  And I use it because I save a mile.  Now that might not seem like much but this is the math that goes on in my head:

1 mile X 5 days (average number of PO trips per week) =
5 miles X 4 weeks in a month =
20 miles = 1 gallon of gas

Thus, over the course of a year, that means that I earn the equivalent of a full tank of gas (mine only holds 12 gallons) with the minimal effort of avoidance (i.e. I don't drive through town the way I used to).

It's good to review to see where you can save on small stuff that adds up.  It's a simple matter of choosing to be conscious and conscientious about your actions--like not leaving the lights on in a room where no eye needs to see (besides the cost of the electricity, there's also bulb life to be considered--wear it out faster, and you have to replace it sooner).

Waste worries me.  I try not to fuss about what other folks do but I can't help seeing it. 

Once I watched a woman toss a pretty red calculator in the garbage because it wasn't working.  I asked her if she minded if I reclaimed it.  She was surprised but said she didn't care.  There were batteries at home that I was pretty sure would fit.  They did.  Ten years on, I'm still using the calculator she threw in the trash for the want of a ten cent battery. 

Last week I watched someone throw two pretty red (red again, that color captures attention) apples in the trash because each had a thumbprint-sized bruise.  I was aghast but held my tongue.  She saw me looking.  Although I hope she was embarrassed by her action, I figure that she probably was not.  What could you do with bruised apples?  Cut the bruise away and make applesauce (less than five minutes, max, including microwave cooking time).  Make a couple of apple turnovers.  Make apple muffins.  Or, if the bruises were bad indeed, rough chop the apple and put it in the undergrowth for wild creatures to feast upon or to compost gently.  I would do nearly anything other than toss it in the trash but in this case, I decided it was best to mind my own business.

There's much I want to do that I cannot because I am just one person.  There's much I wish that I could say but I hold my tongue--that's avoidance, too, for maintaining the energy for living.  All any person can do is to try to the best of her own power and to be aware of what is going on around her.  One person cannot save the world but each of us can improve upon our corner of it.

I'm gonna keep trying.
Life is good.

.....by the way, the view of the sky from the access road was so spectacularly beautiful (kinda reminded me of the skies in that famous El Greco painting of Toledo) when I went to the PO this morning, that I pulled into a turning lane to snap a picture.


Look at the wonder all around you and rejoice.