Letting go

My neighbors like to yell.

They shout at each other back-and-forth, reminding me of so many people like them in my life.

My mother, my father, the preachers, the teenage version of me.

I think of these and the sound of those voices, drowned out by the neighbors, screaming over who knows what.

I sigh.

I breathe.

I release those voices and pieces that used to haunt this version of myself.

In. Out.

In. Out.

My twitching battle scars become at ease again.

And I thank myself, for remembering that deep breaths, and the smell of petunias are better than maliced fire spewing from my mouth.

 

 

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Story Water ~rumi~

A story is like water

that you heat for your bath.

 

It takes messages between the fire

and your skin.  It lets them meet,

and it cleans you!

 

Very few can sit down

in the middle of the fire itself

like a salamander or Abraham.

We need intermediaries.

 

A feeling of fullness comes,

but usually it takes some bread

to bring it.

 

Beauty surrounds us,

but usually we need to be walking

in a garden to know it.

 

The body itself is a screen

to shield and partially reveal

the light that’s blazing

inside your presence.

 

Water, stories, the body,

all the things we do, are mediums

that hide and show what’s hidden.

 

Study them,

and enjoy this being washed

with a secret we sometimes know,

and then not.

March 23, prelude

I lingered in quiet

the moments searching for song, the right songs, for this

fruitless.

A stillness, a folding in,

to myself, to you, to this mist stretched out, binding us

together.

Learning this new thing on earth

a universe of energy, with no impossibilities and reverent peace in hope

somehow

simultaneously comforting and bewildering.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, How do you measure the life of a woman or a man? ~ RENT

 

One of my professors recounts an experience at another university where the Journalism school folded and the debate about absorbing those programs into Communication Studies “The faculty was like ‘Noooooo, we are not a skills based discipline’ ” he tells me. I look at him quizzically.

As soon as the University adds garland and multi colored bulbs to the lights around the Oval I am transported back to my first fall, my first holidays, my first year in Montana. I moved here a blank canvas to the Rocky Mountain West, with self imposed marching orders to understand environmental issues, and how to connect other people to them – through visuals, experiences, and powerful words.

I had a fully manual Canon AE-1 camera, probably the top of its line in the 1960s. I lived in the 9th floor of Montana’s (then) 4th tallest building. My dorm faced west, and served as sanctuary for hall mates with roomie issues and one of the best sunset spots in the city.

I spent most of my time in the darkroom. Having moved here FOR photojournalism I felt the pressure of performance and time to painstakingly pull my portfolio together. I HAD to get into the professional program that fall to stay on my bachelors in 4 years timeline.

So I shuffled across campus in the sparkling dark of Montana winter, under those multi colored Christmas trees hanging around the Oval. I knocked, entered the first dark room door, closed it, then entered the second to the red glow and chemical smell of the darkroom. Sometimes rolling, agitating  and rinsing film. Sometimes cropping, burning, dodging, enlarging prints. I would pop the RENT soundtrack in my headphones and journey through some internal conglomeration of my photos and the story of starving, loving, striving artists.

I thought I had experienced winter as a southwestern Virginia native, but Montana taught me a new facet of this season. I learned scarves had a function other than fashion as I bundled up for minimum skin exposure. I hiked Mt. Setinel at night, surrounded by billions of tiny diamonds, breath freezing, frost dazzling.

This was my own creation story.

A dramatic absolution of a relationship I thought would take me into marriage and motherhood landed me in this new chapter, this new life path; reeling, wounded, open and hungry. One door, one future had closed, and here I moved through this new landscape, this new life, this new sparkling, striving facet of myself.

As I look onto the Oval today, thirteen years later, I feel thankful. I feel tired. I feel hopeful. I feel happy that my life path landed me on this campus those many years ago, and has brought me back to a place of genesis.

I’m never quite sure how I fit my graduate-level academic home. There are no negatives to print from and stories are told through literature reviews and data analysis instead of compelling visuals and graphic design. My hope is this different approach hones lasting tools to understanding the environment and connecting people to it through visuals, experiences and powerful words.

Last semester my cohort studied qualitative research methods. We learned skills and were encouraged to learn, memorize, practice and then reach a mastery that allowed for improvisation. These skills, among other tangible skills, resonate with me. The “doing” grounds me from the heady theoretical ether. And this place, this place, especially in this season, grounds me in everything I hope to achieve through higher education.

It is a tense, dynamic time at the University of Montana as higher ups stumble through financial, leadership and student number issues. I see a different side of the U as a graduate instructor and new relationships with faculty. It is every bit more tenuous and complicated as life at 32 compared to 19.

I look at my students, most of them in a similar life chapter to me all those years ago, and wonder what struggles and genesis they are going through. I hope they have a mixture of moments: unveiling the complications of the world around them AND feeling insulated within their own struggles of making friends and getting across campus in the cold and pouring their all into one project that seems like it will make or break the rest of their life.

I reflect on everything Journalism taught. There are many amazing things that training continues to bring to my life; the desire to connect people to each other and important issues, the ability to present information in interesting ways, investigating multiple points of view and the power of story.

 

Seasons

I read something lately, it was a picture of an autumn tree with the text “The trees are about to show you just how beautiful letting go can be”.

And then another thing… “We are all a little broken, but that’s how the light gets in” -Hemingway

I’ve been silent for awhile. I stopped journaling and blogging a few years ago. The past three have been a hard battle. After years of various doctor visits with no great conclusions I’m beginning to come around to my new normal.

In the meantime, my family has grown.

Semi Colon, a russian blue manx (born without a tail!) was born March 2015 and joined my family that September. In all honesty, he was my rebound pet in the emptiness and mourning of losing Geronimo. For a month I thought I would take him back. He mostly hid behind the toilet, I couldn’t think of a name, and everything in that season just felt wrong. I bought him a harness and carrier and we went for a drive and coffee shop date… and he showed me he was careful and cautious – but up for any adventure. So I didn’t take him back… and I realized we needed each other. I gave him a name for an ending and movement forward.

Oona June, an Australian Cattle Dog x Wire Haired Griffon was born June 2016 and joined our family this August. I brought her home at 7 weeks, nervous about how her and Sem would fare together. For the first month she was smaller than him, and they played together so well! What a relief. She’s a little rough with him as she gets bigger… but he’s great at escape routes, and we have become a pretty tight-knit pack.

We’ve been a family of three only three months, but it feels timeless. I wish it were. I have learned the hard way the bittersweet truth of pets – their lives are far too short. I miss Geronimo every day. But I am glad to have a dog in my life again.

This fall the three of us toured Yellowstone, and I took Oona on my fall pilgrimage to Fernie, BC. She did great. Other than peeing for every excited stranger she meets, she travels well and is fairly behaved for a boisterous 20 week old pup. Her personality is bigger than Montana.

Meanwhile, my graduate studies are trudging along. I’m teaching three classes at the University this semester and although I constantly feel behind in my personal studies, they come together slow and sure. I’m hoping to graduate this May. After that? Who knows?

A year ago I desperately wanted my life to fit back together the way it was. This past year so many constants of my adult life have been completely shattered. It’s not that anything was perfect before shattering, but I knew and loved my life, despite it’s imperfections. It was as if the mirror that reflected my life through my 20s was dropped from some plane, flying over the Rockies, then ran over countless times by city traffic. As I tried to pick the pieces up from muddy puddles, my hands kept getting cut, and dammit, even if I found all those pieces, that mirror, that life, that reflection will never be the same. I hope Hemingway is right. I hope the brokenness allows more light. Most days I feel like I’m still fumbling around in some dim haze… but at least it’s not as dark as it was.

I have this gut feeling that life will shift again after graduation. That this season is meant to be my holding place. Some familiarity and stability while I break, grow and metamorphose. My daily task is to be present and grateful for all the wonder, blessing, and even the pain of that process.

I took Geronimo to Fernie. I gave the first piece of him away last October, to our dear friend Kristin. She took him back to her homestead in Alaska via dog sled through a blizzard and spread his ashes with one of his best friends, Maximus.  I gave some of him to our friend Toph, who had another best friend, Solo. Solo’s gone now too, and a piece of Geronimo waits in Utah, until Toph is ready to take So and Mo somewhere great, and release them. I  have absolutely no idea how long it will take me, how many friends I will enlist, or what the process of carrying or dispersing these ashes may come to. But I started.

After camping in the same spot as the first magical trip to Fernie, Oona and I walked to the fairy tale bridge in an enchanted forest, down to the water of Lizard Creek. I reached in, felt the ashes for the first time, grabbed a handful, and took a breath. Looking around at the moss and rain rush water, the yellow cottonwood leaves starting to decay, OJ (oblivious) playing with a stick, I took one last glance at that piece of G, and let go.

The ashes swirled in the creek, over the waterfall, out of sight.

I whispered the thought repeating over and over and over in my soul, “thank you”.

ghosts from the library

from the public library

I imagine you home

on the couch, or most likely

lying on my bed

dreaming

whimpers and feet flicking

from the public library

I imagine walking three blocks,

home

with thumping tail greeting,

hugs, love, a walk

together

Gazing out this window

the leaves are gone, dead.

enough snow frosts the mountaintops

the valley dry – color drained.

Gone is the heat, the green

escaping to these walls for air conditioning

and internet

Gone.

is our home

together

….    is you.

So I check out cds,

and passerbys

and return to you

only

through words

and heartbeats

from the public library.

SW VA _ November 2008

000110

Not sure if this will officially be part of my new project, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about life 7 years ago: the remaining 400 so miles of my Appalachian Trail thru hike looming, winter coming early, and Geronimo by my side.

I’m constantly amazed at time, and how life can change.

(not yet named project) Installation #1

I love walking.

With Geronimo gone, no one encourages the habit.

Today I took a break from commitments and treated myself to a walk… and something magical happened.. I wanted to create.

So I’m starting a new project. Not sure what the time frame will be, the beginning was very organic, so I want the process to remain that way. It will be a journal of sorts.

The past few years I’ve struggled to maintain the journaling, writing, musing self that existed through most of my 20s. At least for now, the reflexive, creative self that may rise from the ashes of quietness and some very challenging years, is more visual than verbal : painting, photos, design, motion.Those feel right for this season.

So here is the first piece: Daly Ave 11.10.15

0001IL

This, and following works will be collections of abstracts, documenting my experience of a place. As abstracts, they are open to interpretation. As abstracts they may be charged with my interpretation.

Join me on this journey?

Saying No

I’ve been reading a book with some folks associated with my new job. An Alter in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, retired Episcopal priest. The book, so much as I understand, is about seeking God through viewing all things in life and the world with a sense of reverence. But one of the more striking chapters is about seeking God through Sabbath, aka- saying no to a million things.

As Americans, we suck at saying no. We worship busyness, accomplishment, picking ourselves up by the bootstraps. The idea of saying – no thank you, I can’t do ________ because I’m spending a day for Sabbath, doing nothing, is appalling to our culture. But we get so high and mighty about so many other “biblical” things. Why can’t we sacrifice? Why can’t we say no to doing or being some things.

This weekend, I tried it. My best friend asked me to watch her toddler, I said no. After I thought about it I added a “I’m sorry” and “I may go out of town this weekend”. She was very understanding… but part of me felt terrible turning her down. I said no, and it wasn’t for any particular reason other than I wanted to do something Dacia suggested, that I hadn’t done yet – nurture yourself.

Take time out, focus on me, say no for the sake of my sanity and well-being. Nurture myself. What a concept.

I made dinner, listened to music, went to bed early. The next day I rearranged my room, tinkering, making things, more music, dog time, long walk with the dog. Pizza delivery, thrifting, building things, more music.

The art of doing nothing. Being nothing. Being everything, nurturing to myself. Saying No to the world. I skipped church and listened to a podcast. I got together with none of my friends all weekend. It was brilliant.

I didn’t understand introversion for a long time. But after many summer wandering the forests, meadows and waters, I know myself. I am at peace with myself, unlike when I am around many people for long periods of time. I recharge, nurturing myself, by solo activities. Space to dream, create and breathe.

I could get into this saying no thing… but the world beckons me back. Back to work, school, friendships, the business of a full life. I will have to wait until my next retreat to say no.