Mid Life Blog

My main purpose for starting a blog at this moment in time is to consciously seek and write about small and big sources of inspiration no matter what.  I have no idea if it will be of interest to anyone else or entertaining in the least – I only know I need to start something new that holds me accountable to seek hope and inspiration and “moving toward the light” of life.

The people and social movements who inspire me will be in these pages, as well as recipes that make me smile, wisdom to live by, books that taught me something, and some factoids about a single parent who finds herself in mid life just like all those others out there, making it through another day spinning through our universe.  ~ (October 2011)

By Erin Waterman

Poems in Praise of the Small Life

One of the sweetest results of going through stuff to move is finding things you thought you had lost long ago.  In a little 8-1/2 x 11′ paper box labeled by the paper company “Whisper – Quietly Speaks Quality” I found hard copies of poems lost in digital form.

These poems I would have added to my published collection “Holding On & Letting Go.”  They give praise to a small beautiful life I had before the day in a crowded lunch cafeteria when someone found me intriguing, approachable or gullible enough to ask me out for my first date ever.  Yes, I made it through high school, four years of college and outdoors treks, world travel, and 7 years in the working world before this happened.

Compassion for all the late bloomers out there.  Your remarkable self is fine.  If I could go back there I would.  Had I been raised toward a more religious bent, I might have become a nun.  Or possibly that karma is what I came into this life carrying with my hermit-like tendencies and sense no one else can take better care of me than me.

Poetic echoes of that small beautiful life.

 

One Bedroom Apartment Without a View

This cubicle I
nurture so it nurtures me.
Plants expand along
the walls, hooked
by nails and string
Smooth oatmeal carpet
extends wall to small wall,
bookshelf to bookshelf.
A twelve-inch TV rests
on the recycle crate–
black and white,
a foot from the ground,
branded by a previous owner
with a red-lettered sticker
“This Insults Women.”
Photos of friends, family, Hawaii–
one tan poster captures
a wizened Navajo man
wearing high-top sneakers.
Reads, “White Man’s Moccasins.”
An electric keyboard cuts
one corner of the room, standing
on black legs, a giant insect.
A healthy ecosystem,
closed-loop economics–
the space is swept and dusted when it asks,
the dishes washed and dried by sponge and towel.
Each object, if not in place, migrates
to its meant space.

 

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Cut Free

My sister makes people from wrapping paper
with silver blades.
She folds a fan
just longer than her hand
and slices,
arcing left,
turning the paper’s edge slow
against the blades.

She shifts the scissors straight
to make a point.
Scooped and rigid air
sprouts from the paper–
the shapes look nothing like people.

Surprise is unfolding
the fan to a chain.
Perfectly dancing people
kick a leg left, then right.
Minus mouths,
I hear them laugh and
watch them sway
in crinkles.

 

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Walk About

You stay there open-mouthed, shocked
at my ability to pull out and leave
you both waiting–
would I treat a car this way?  Or a bike?
Any other vehicle might be polished and cared for.
I have no apologies for the thrashing I inflict,
for the loss you experience in your souls.

You transport me everywhere I need to go,
but I must use you until you weaken,
and your threads pull loose around your skins.
My faithful companions, your age will creak
on my conscience and replacing you will be
as trying as this path I am on–
Why do you hide your secrets so well?
I search your faces for a sign
while you sit there gaping,
planning my next journey,
envisioning an end.

Our mutual resentment grows
as I abuse you and you hold your silence
somewhere in a string, knowing
where it is I must go.

 

 

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Babysitting Crayons

Four year olds always give me colors.
Purples, reds, yellows, blues
and always the designs offer Life.
Not life after being done to,
burned and learned.
Life that jumps and laughs and hugs.

They fill in their lines quickly,
knowing they can color another page.
Placing the prize in my hands
they say, “Look what I made for you.”
But why do they give them away so fast?

And don’t only four year olds ask whys?

 

 

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Two things I wanted more than most:  1) To be able to have a dog companion, 2) To have courage and funds to equip solo outdoor treks.  One day a young woman passed me driving an old green car with a canoe on the roof and a dog in the passenger seat.

Alter-Ego

Car-speed tickles hair
loose from its braid
weighted along my spine.
Silver earrings click their
charms in dance.
I rush on toward
silent waters,
canoe quiet.

Sponge-wet dog kisses
graze my knuckles with each gear shift.
Sucia, Alaskan friend, leans
on wind, opening her ears inside-out
lapping up air with thirst–
she thinks of running circles in false-start
leaps through wide, falling, open places
where only white shines.

I desire green depths,
gurgling shallows under willow bough
strokes– a scale to weigh my hollow
wooden craft;
to roll duckweed floats and lily pads
away in a single paddle pull.
My glides attempt a certainty
planes above an orange carp
swagging straight
through frenzied currents,
stone wall shadows–
I am free to find the smoothest motion
inside a swirl.

By Erin Waterman Tagged

Halfway to 30 Days of Fear

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(Photo credit: Jordan Siemens, Aurora Photos)

WOW has this challenge ever been amazing.  All I am doing is coaching myself through fear and procrastination on a daily basis.  Here is a list of not even all the transformative happenings from 15 days.  Keep in mind what is fear to one person might be completely benign to another.

  • Self-published a book connected to work of my heart.
  • Contacted publisher when error was made on title page of book and received free shipped replacement copies.  (Stepping forward on behalf of self = fear)
  • Got self into bathing suit at public lake.
  • Jumped off dock with nieces at lake.
  • Committed to doing old yoga tapes 3 days each week and kept commitment.
  • Started creating a 30-Day Fear Challenge curriculum and simple webpage to allow others to join in and support one another after my challenge is over.
  • Explored and memorized 10 of 25 miles of horse trails I had never been on in the woods near me.
  • Contacted camp director in person to introduce self and leave book copy for her, even though I had to ask four people to find the woman in the pink wig with tiara and cat-eye glasses.  (You gotta know Camp Goodtimes to understand).
  • Work 12-hour days at job when more work became available suddenly. . . Even though not ideal because job causes ear ringing and hearing loss with long hours, it is a stepping stone making cash available for next steps.
  • Gave 3 months notice to move to a smaller more manageable space.
  • Sorted through and took 4 giant boxes of books and clothing to community thrift store attached to local food bank = Win-Win.  Giving back for food I receive while making items available to people who may want them, while clearing out living space.
  • Visited friends in children’s hospital, despite all memories/emotions floating there.
  • Got many inches of hair chopped.  Shedding.  Feeling lighter.

 

Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.

― Jim Rohn

“As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.”

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (p 54)

Environmental Cost of Digital Devices

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(my shell phone)

I just saw a news flash that Apple posted $7.7 billion profit based on their latest iPhone.  I am not a Luddite, but sort of wannabe one.  I have never owned anything more than a simple emergency cell phone (and only got that 2 years ago) that still has more computing power than the desktop Apple I did my college senior thesis on.

Suddenly a question popped into my mind that goes way beyond Apple.  What is the environmental cost of our devices?  I already have read reports of the social impact on Chinese factory workers.  The only environmental impact I had envisioned was the phones’ physical bodies wasting away in a chemical soup of a dump site somewhere.

Then I came across this article that put another piece of the environmental puzzle together and was blown away by the thought we exist inside a pot of water we do not know is about to boil.  Steaming up, up and away into the Cloud.  This was the first time I encountered the phrase “digital ecosystem,” but of course that is because I prefer to live inside a natural ecosystem and am behind the times.

Quite the perspective:

The report finds that the global Information-Communications-Technologies (ICT) ecosystem uses a total of 1,500 terawatt-hours of power every year. This is equal to the total electricity generated by Japan and Germany combined, and as much electricity used to light up the entire world in 1985.

Apple iPhone Uses More Energy Than Refrigerator

 

 

 

30-Day Fear Challenge

Thanks to my friend, Jolijn, who got the inspiration from a young man who did this experiment, I am embarking on a 30-Day Fear Challenge in which you chose one of three things each day to do:

#1 – Do something you fear.

#2 – Do something you want to do but have been procrastinating about and putting off.

#3 – Do something you have never done before.  (This list gets smaller the older one gets – or maybe not if the Universe expands).

 

It seems to be a snowball effect because this is turning into 2 challenges per day for me.  I am only done with Day 2 of this experiment, and I will not bore you with daily updates.  I want to post this now to simply record my participation and will post 30-day highlights of exactly how much fear I blast apart when I reach the end.  I will either survive or I won’t.  If you see my day #30 August 5 post, I LIVE!

Day 1:

a) Ran 1 mile of 5-mile trail in the woods.  Last time I ran I weighed 25 pounds less and did not have holes in my shoes.  Asthma still flares when I run, but Yay for me, I ran and felt FABU!   I immediately wanted to do it again.  So I did after catching my breath.  A side effect was that I discovered more of a trail system near me that contains 25 miles of horse trails I have never explored.  That is going down as an exciting challenge for the “something never done” category for another day. . . only map is at the trailhead so memorizing all 25 miles of twists and turns will be fun!

b) Took myself off personal Facebook page for 30 days to reevaluate whether I still want a FB page.  This means I won’t communicate with anyone through my page – only use the icon to log into off-Facebook events and groups.  It is such a huge temptation as my paid work at the computer ebbs and flows.  Instead I could take a refreshing 2- to 3-minute break or create something!  I was off Facebook for 2 years after realizing I felt worse and more alone in the world despite all the “friends”.  The past year I recreated a page in order to participate in groups only available through FB and enjoyed a ton of connections.  But recently I started feeling that old sinking again and want to see how I feel after 30 days.

Day 2:

a) Said “hello” and smiled at anyone I encountered.  Fortunately I got out of my home office this day for several reasons and did not need to say hi and smile in a mirror.  Though I did that too.  ; )

b) Finalized publishing my book #2 for 2014!  Yay.  Available here tomorrow:  https://www.createspace.com/4890478

 

Apology to My Body

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Apology to My Body

I have loathed you so long I don’t remember not loathing you.

I am truly, deeply, madly sorry.

You have kept me from touching the most unconditionally loving creatures on the planet – the furred and feathered.*

You restrained me four years in a plastic cage in a time of life you were intended to blossom.**

I have poisoned you unknowingly and sometimes knowingly with sugar and food.

I have made you immobile when you need to move, telling you the computer desk is our survival, is all I know to do.

60-Minute Quest

I walk a 2-mile road until suddenly to my left a hawk cries in distress, lands on a pine branch, lifts off again to swoop and scream until I see why.  A great horned owl silhouetted against the twilight.  And me without a camera.  I step closer to watch.  The hawk dive-bombs the owl’s head over and over while the owl sits motionless on his branch.  After 5 minutes the owl opens his great wings and moves deeper into the cluster of trees.  I can only hear the hawk cry but see neither bird.  Is the hawk’s nest in peril?  Is his territory threatened?  I think of physical boundaries and safety.

My feet kiss the earth until a clearing draws me in.  A gravel circle ringed by wild daisies and healing yellow mullein.  I sit in the center of the circle on painful rocks and ask how to make peace with my body.  Wind carries the question:  “What are you feeling right now?” After a moment, an answer:  “Grace, only grace.”  I sink into the earth until the gravel does not hurt anymore.  I know in that moment my body is part of the grace that is the center of this circle of daisies and towering soft mullein.  I bow to the four directions.  I know it is time to let the voices go.

Voices

A lifetime of swimming in a culture that shows me everyday women (and men) are only loved with bodies more shiny, sculpted and smooth than mine.  Long ago I understood body hate is programmed into each image because billions of dollars depend on making people want ways to be shinier, more sculpted and smooth.  Still it is where I must swim.

Goldilocks voices of those who wanted something from this body. “You are too small for me.”  “You are too large for me.”  “If you can’t keep up, there won’t be a second date.” “I’ll help you lose the weight you want and buy you a dress when you reach goal,” and the little black dress makes the perfect goodbye gift.

Power

This body does not need any of these voices.  This body knows it summoned enough power to grow and feed an entire human being.  A pretty cool trick.  This body knows it loves feeling the wind, earth, water, trees.  This body has walked marathons and would jump at a chance to walk the entire country.  This body has hiked green spaces and paddled open water so spectacular dreams can’t hold them.

Acceptance

We are going places, body.  Everything you are is okay.  Trauma does not need to be physical to be held in the body, and we are going to heal.  We are going to take in only what nurtures, what nourishes. We are going to move gently, strengthen, lengthen and stretch over time.  Just like that bamboo stand, just like the cherry tree in wind, just like the vine outside your window and the rose that blooms only for you.  No more loathing for you.  You are grace.

 

 

NOTES:

* So far unable to find cure for the most severe pet dander allergies doctors have seen.
** Wore back brace for spine curvature during all of high school.

By Erin Waterman

A Sea Without Stars

My goal for Solstice was to soak up the sun and listen to the sea.  I walked along a rocky beach until I reached a sandy spot to lie down.  Just as I remembered a spiritual teacher asking me to practice being a buoy, I looked up and saw this immediately front and center.  Yup, a buoy.  So I meditated.  But then tears started to flow.

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Even though this has apparently been discussed in the media for 8 months, I do not watch TV and only learned yesterday about the devastation of sea stars.  Here are the thoughts that washed through me.

How do we live in a world without stars?

As a child in New Mexico I dreamed often in oceans, knew what it was to have fins, to glide free past whales and smooth grey creatures of the deep.  I woke happy each time I visited these dreams.  My bedroom walls were covered in posters of sea creatures.

At age 9 my family was blessed to spend a summer at a marine laboratory on a Pacific Northwest island where my dad had a teaching sabbatical.  My world became tide pools.  Darting fish, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles, and rainbows of sea anemones and stars.  It was the happiest summer of my life.

sea-stars

(photo credit:  Mark Epstein – who I hope does not mind since all my great sea star photos from last summer are unable to be transferred from my phone)

This month the stars are expected to be gone, wasting away in the millions along the entire West Coast of America.

I was asked to practice being a buoy.  To rise atop the drama below.  Yes I can.  But I can also cry a river of tears for the stars of the sea.

For only a brief flash of a moment I felt like walking straight toward submersion, the ocean holding me to sleep.

I can only wonder if this is a tipping point of no return for the ecosystem so many are monitoring right now.  It is one thing to read about a species of bird or animal dying in a jungle on the other side of the world.  It is another to have an emotional connection with a beautiful creature woven through your own life disappear before your very eyes.

This video is from January, but now it is evident this is happening from Baja to Alaska.  Die-offs have happened in the past, but never this widespread, never this many, and that is why this feels different.  If anyone is seeing this in another ocean besides the Pacific, I would love a comment to let me know.

To reassure people who might read this that care about me, I know following my impulse to despair is not an appropriate answer to the question “What can I do?”  Signing petitions, fasting and standing witness to the massive shifts happening ecologically are actions I can take.  I am not concerned with end of Earth.  She is resilient.  I only fear the turmoil of culture shock, living in a world I hardly recognize.  My most important action right now feels like listening, listening, listening to her and allowing myself to receive her gifts.

 

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/05/dying_starfish_found_in_yaquin.html

Letting Go

One of my goals for my 24-hour vacation was to practice letting go of things that don’t serve me.  To that end, I wrote in the sand some beliefs I wished the tide to carry away.  In typical me fashion, I made a tactical error in that the tide was going out at the moment I wrote these, not coming in.  This meant for several hours beach walkers could pass by and scratch their heads at the strange writings.  Maybe it seemed like a new religion for unsuccessful people who are koo-koo and cannot dance?  : )

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And below is my slide show from 5 hours of beach walking and 4 hours of rain forest hiking and praising of old growth trees people have left alone to continue their journey.  Praise be!

Halfway through my beach walking, tiny pieces of blue plastic jumped out at me as if saying, “I do not belong”.  Once my radar was set toward plastic, I felt compelled to pick up each and every piece, and as I bent, I said “Forgive us, we know not what we do.”  It was actually a very spiritual experience!  I intend to start doing this everywhere I go now.  Can you imagine if everyone who ever walked a beach did this?  Amazing what happens once attention is focused on any single thing.  We start making a difference and stop feeling helpless in the face of such a huge problem.  Here is a great source of info if you want to help out:  http://5gyres.org/what_is_the_issue/the_solution/.  That same day, a cashier at major chain store I stopped in on my road trip asked what I thought of her county’s new plastic bag ban effective July 1, 2014.  Can you guess I am thrilled?

(I don’t have much choice of YouTube audio to attach to my slideshows because I do as much as possible for no cost.  Otherwise I would choose something a bit more upbeat and inspirational and appropriate for the length).  A meandering 11-minute nature meditation as a break in your day.  Enjoy the peace.  And the seagull classroom in session.

 

Fasting as Focus

Today I am in solidarity with a group of people fasting on the 1st of each month to prior to the next global climate change meeting in Peru this fall.  This is the result of social media following the 13-day fast of Yeb Sano, Philippines UN commissioner, after Typhoon Haiyan.

http://fastfortheclimate.org

It dawned on me as I started the day that this is the first time I have ever spent 24 hours without eating in my ENTIRE life.  Even when I have been ill with stomach flu or pneumonia or even super busy, I managed to take in some liquid calories.

Here are some insights from my fast:

1)  Fasting is humbling.  To recognize I have not gone without food for an entire 24 hours in 47 years makes me acutely aware of my privilege as a human on Earth.   It’s not an entirely comfortable awareness but certainly brings gratitude to the forefront.

2)  Fasting is spiritual.  One thing Life has taught me is that spiritual growth happens when we are outside our “comfort zone.”   Life will bring us there again and again, and/or we can consciously choose to place ourselves in situations that cause growth.

3)  Fasting is focus.  Hunger pangs are an incredible opportunity for mindful focus away from discomfort and toward the reason for a fast.  Here are talks on the topic should anyone want a spectrum of views on climate change.  The “noise” is so loud, I sometimes do not know how to 100% draw a full conclusion, but I do sit in solidarity with all life affected by the shifts.

Seattle Times video about Pacific Ocean acidification happening close to my home now:

Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn

 

An American climate blogger:

 

A British climate diplomat:

 

A US Navy Rear Admiral oceanographer and reformed climate change skeptic (surprisingly entertaining speaker):

 

Ocean acidification scientist in Washington State:

 

2014 Yale Climate Forum, Expecting the Unexpected:

 

IPCC data

http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml

 

Surprise!  In March 2014, a Western Washington University professor emeritus who describes himself as apolitical, a lifelong environmentalist and not paid by a big company testifies before WA senate that Climate Change is a myth, the oceans are not acidifying, CO2 emissions are not  a cause of global warming, and that NASA and NOAA data is tweaked.  (Video testimony included in article)

http://theolympiareport.com/wwu-scientist-debunks-lawmakers-myths-about-co2-climate-change/

 

This just in:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/us/politics/epa-to-seek-30-percent-cut-in-carbon-emissions.html?emc=edit_na_20140601&nlid=58750793&_r=0

 

 

Aha Moment

Sometimes the insight you have been seeking the longest is right in front of your nose!  Or under your feet.

The question I have been trying to answer for myself over 40 years suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks today.

Q:  Why do I care so little about money as a goal or measure and in fact actively resist or am repulsed by attempts to attract money?  (Often to my own detriment, I might add).

A:  Because every model of money I have been aware of since very young has been linked to degradation and/or decimation of Earth, Nature, Mother in my subconscious mind.

I feel tremendous relief at this insight, because I know I can shift my perspective on money, begin to seek only work that honors the Earth, and/or simply embrace this intuition as part of my core being in this life.  In reality, not a single one of us in industrial modern life, even those living “off grid” are completely free of ties to money that represents damage in a systemic process that has become larger than we can see. Street Theater, anyone?

The other day, a friend posted this image of a famous quote by biologist Jonas Salk.

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Many who pray and work for global environmental protection do believe the world would be better off without humans, and there is a lot of evidence to support this argument.

But the Salk quote begs the question, ‘Then why are we here?”  Why indeed.

The awareness I feel in my marrow as demonstrated in my last post even as young as age 12, is because we are intended to love all of Earth’s creations.

Love.

Huge grief arises as we watch what is happening to Earth in humanity’s name, but I do believe it is never too late to include ourselves in Earth’s natural feedback loop of Love for us.  We simply need to spend time in conscious connection to nature, no matter how that is expressed in our lives.

Even if Earth is dying, as some suggest (Planetary Hospice – Rebirthing The Planet), it feels far more meaningful to love and hold a dying hand than to pretend the hand has nothing to teach us.

When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection—love is born. We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one… You would do anything for the benefit of the Earth, and the Earth will do anything for your well-being.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

 

By Erin Waterman

12-Year-Old Wisdom

While spring cleaning, I ran across a creativity journal I kept when I was 12 and 13 years old.  Possibly our life’s purpose is never seen more clearly than near age 12.  Old enough to have learned a bit about how humanity and self works, yet not old enough to be completely jaded or giving up.

I remember distinctly dreading growing up because the problems facing humanity and earth felt too overwhelming to repair.  More so 35 years later, I have found solace in my dream of working with people to reconnect to Earth’s voice.

What these little poems tell me is not to give up on completing an ecopsychology degree even if it takes me to age 80 to earn enough.  My life purpose is deeply intertwined with Earth’s purpose.

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Sunlight

The sunlight filtered
through smooth and graceful trees.
Behold! There was life!

 

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Stream

A crystal clear stream
frothing and fretting its way
endlessly running.

 

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Leaves

Leaves! Drifting downward
carried and caressed by wind,
sliding to soft earth.

 

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Clouds

The billowy clouds
floated above the blue sky
changing shape with care.

 

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A New Day

The sun spreads its light
and dries the wet dewy grass
A new day begun.

 

 

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Associated Press – July 2013 – Detroit

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Man

Buildings and buildings,
tearing and scarring meadows.
Will Man ever stop?

 

 

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The Apple Tree

The apple tree stood
ornamented and serene
reaching for the sky.

 

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Gas flares over North Dakota – burning oil cheaper than selling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth

The earth gave and gave,
until it could give no more.
And who was to blame?

 

Eternal_clock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time

It is faster than joy, love,
happiness.
It is slower than death.