I’m experimenting with cartooning. Of the three versions below, which image and caption do you prefer?
Now that my kids are grown, with their beliefs and choices so clearly out of my control, I begin to acknowledge how big an illusion that was – my sense that I could control who my kids became. Oh, sure, of course I shaped and influenced and taught and trained. Through the things I did, the things I didn’t do, and the things I wish I could do over.
I still catch myself trying to influence. Here in my 60s, for the first time I’m discovering how to be peaceful and open – and I catch myself hoping that this will inspire my kids to try to get to this point earlier.
I’m discovering how to be grateful, and how to cut people a break. People including myself. I catch myself scheming about life lessons, how best to share these perspectives with my toddler granddaughter.
After I catch myself, I fill with peaceful futility. I can’t. They won’t. Not through me, anyway. They will live their own lives and come to their own realizations and it is through living step by step that they will get to wherever it is they are going.
The other day, writing at my favorite coffee joint, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a young family and got reminded how stressful I found it, being the parent of small children. The struggle to say no and don’t constructively. We don’t hit, sweetie… Let’s give that back, it belongs to him and he wants it back …
Which sent me on a stroll down an overgrown memory lane.
My ex-husband and I agreed that we didn’t want our twin toddlers to play with toy weapons or watch violent cartoons. But it turns out that anything could be turned into a gun or sword if you held it right. One day our son brandished some innocent construction toy, yelling, “I got you. I killed you. I’m Batman. I’m a Power Ranger.”
Baffled and frustrated, his dad demanded, “How do you even know about these things?”
Our son replied, “Kyle’s underpants.”
Kyle was another kid at the pre-school, which had a communal diaper-changing area.
For me, this is a time of imminent loss. One of my longest-standing, dearest friends is fighting for his life. Now, he is the proverbial tough old bird and if anyone can beat these particular odds it will be this guy. But for the foreseeable future, the next text or phone call could bring terrible news.
As I scrap this or that “important” plan in order to spend a few minutes clunking around his hospital room or assisting his family in some small way, I’m re-reminded of the few things that matter to me.
1) My loved ones.
3) Getting my head into the present tense so I can appreciate what is happening while it is happening. Such as walking on the bluffs by the ocean and… catching paragliders taking their turns at launch… or witnessing brilliantly graceful pelicans come in for their awkward landings, right next to harbor seals who lounge unperturbed:
And, oh yeah,
4) My health.
When I was younger, I knew these things, too. But when I was younger, I more often lost touch with truth.
I’m so grateful I got to get old and I look forward to figuring more stuff out. While remembering the stuff I already figured out.
(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was “lines”.)
I’m Still Here
Accidents of erosion.
That’s how my first geology teacher explained the surface of our world. He was talking narrowly, as scientists do, about seeing the history of the earth in its current landforms.
Landforms like this shoreline cliff and creek bed:
The phrase stuck with me. It covers so much. All the stuff I used to try to understand, that no one really can. Why why why I took the jobs I did, moved the places I went, lost these loved ones, saw those illnesses recur, effortlessly vaulted to success here, bashed my head against failure’s wall there. How it came to be so important for me to try to understand.
When I look at my life geologically, I see that things fall apart, and they form again in new ways, and what it looks like, well, it just depends – like erosion – on the weather.
What’s that the Buddhists say? You are the sky. Everything else, it’s just weather. (- Pema Chodron, maybe quoting somebody else).
Recently I moved, to be closer to the ocean. The move surprised people, including me. (More about that at some point.) My new neighborhood has spectacular views of the beauty of erosion. I especially love the trees, in varying stages of change.
This one I call Nessie:
Jurassic predator tree:
The alien and the protector of the cliff (you get to decide which is which):
(The WordPress weekly photo challenge was Waiting.)
Maybe I Do, Maybe I Don’t
When I first saw this sign, I wanted to know the back story. But soon I was glad that no one was around to ask, because this seemed to be a time when speculation would exceed reality. Note it is a statement, not a question. That’s my favorite aspect.
(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Signs.)
Adventure Is Always Present Tense
A sister-in-law: “Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? I think of you as I read it, because of your adventurous spirit.”
Me: “No, but I am thrilled that you think I have an adventurous spirit. Wonder if I agree.”
A sister-in-law: “Are you kidding?”
Adventurous? Moi? I wish! I do like to try new things but I generally fall short of earning the honor of that adjective.
I can be a big chicken, but that’s not what prevents me. It’s my tendency to dwell in the past and on the future. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. It afflicts most adults of our species.
Adventure can only be had right now, in the present. Kids are good at living in the present tense. So are critters. It’s a skill I’m trying to re-acquire.
When you first learn to walk, every moment is an adventure:
A few years later, adventure is as close as your next idea, such as this tandem go-cart constructed of cardboard boxes, plywood, and skateboard wheels:
Red and Luna would head out each morning to patrol the yard and explore anything that might be new since yesterday.
And of course, when you’re a dog, like Shadow, adventure is always in the air – especially through a car window:
Shadow and I go for walks twice a day. I vary the route but we’ve lived here for years. No matter which way we go, we’ve done it before. Many times. Yet, each time we step out the door, Shadow’s enthusiasm is as fresh as ever, and she’s always in a hurry to get going. It’s not that she needs to go – she’s got a backyard, she’s not cooped up inside. She’s eager because you just never know what might happen next.
That’s the attitude I aspire to. Except without the affinity for cat poop.
Nica, the main character of my latest novel, is completely comfortable with adventure. I’ve never written another character that I want so much to be like!
More Than States of Mind?
I like my absurdly early, outdoor exercise class because it lets me watch the sun come up. To me, every sunrise offers hope and promise – so seeing the sun rise starts my day right. I do my best to appreciate sunset, too, which brings me calm, an easing of the day’s stresses. When you think about it, it really is amazing that we have these glories to enjoy every single day!
Given the difference in psychological impact between sunrise and sunset, I would expect the two events to be readily distinguishable in my photographs. But I don’t think I could tell one from the other if I didn’t remember when I took the pictures. So maybe it’s not sunlight at a low angle that makes these times of day so special. Maybe it’s the quality of the air that has such distinct impacts on me each morning and evening. Or maybe it’s the sounds of all the birds who are so active as the sun rises or sets.
Or maybe the difference is all in my expectations.
Or maybe I am missing some obvious distinguishing feature of the photos. How about you? Can you tell which of the photos below show sunrise, and which show sunset? (Answers on page 2.)
(The topic of a recent WP Weekly Photo Challenge was contrasts.)
Home Is Where The Thoughts Stay
I love meeting new places, and so I am excited to be heading out for a week of work-related travel; however, there’s a part of me that never wants to leave home, and thus I must always shove myself out the door.
There is nothing special about my house. It’s a tiny, nondescript box. I’m always behind with my housework and yard work and I no longer pretend that I intend to catch up. It would be charitable to call the furniture antiques. At one time I had lots of Nice Stuff but multiple moves, kids, pets, and my waning interest in Stuff have all taken a toll.
But of course, that’s not what matters.
Home is where my kids grew up (when we stopped moving around), and where they stay when they need a place to. Home is where we marked their growth spurts on the wall, and now have a funny paint job as we paint around but never over those growth marks.
Home is where the cats and the dog reside, usually doing something goofy. This morning, two of the cats did some play-fighting in the backyard, on opposite sides of a tree trunk. They rose up like bears and batted at each other left right left right but mostly hit the tree trunk.
Home is where I sit on a patio and write novels, and blog posts, while listening to the morning birds or the evening freeway traffic, which really can sound like the ocean.
Home is where I get to choose my changes, or have that illusion. Home is where I can dress however I please, except maybe when a kid walks in out of the bright afternoon sun with a friend and I’m still in my jammies. Home is where I ignore the phone’s ring if that’s what I feel like doing.
Home is where I recharge, revive, restore, and become ready to go back out in the world.
The curious thing is that home is so portable. I have had many homes – big, small, fancy, plain – and they all have the same effect. A house is a building, a home is the state of mind.