Musical Interlude

My daughter was one of 100 Seattle-area high school students who had opportunity to hear Joey Alexander live when he was at the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum earlier this month. I’ve been listening to him since he arrived in the US, and feel grateful that wonderful musicians continue to exist in this often dark world. What blows me away about Joey is part his age (even people who don’t believe in reincarnation are tempted to when they hear a prodigy), but more the seamless way he converses and listens with other musicians. Something that can’t be taught. Music is like his entire being’s language and his conversations are incredible.

We had the pleasure of enjoying another type of jazz, gypsy jazz, this week when Djangofest arrived in our community. We could afford to attend one concert out of the festival lineup, and we chose these guys. It doesn’t seem possible to feel down when listening to gypsy jazz. Whenever I encounter great musicians, I think about all the mundane things artists have to go through to get to moment in time and place to share their art (plane travel, housing arrangements, even getting dressed for performances and finding bathrooms – all that kind of thing). They look like perfectly normal humans until they begin to play. Gratitude!

Here’s a little history on Django, in case you have never heard of him. The unique left hand style he developed after surviving a fire with severe burns at age 18 that left his 4th and 5th fingers paralyzed. His grandson, David Reinhardt continues to perform guitar today.

When Comfort Hurts

In the world of self-help and spiritual guidance, going outside our “comfort zone” is talked about as the only way toward growth. Well, I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

imag0986(See the little fox faces in the pattern? To commemorate seeing my first red fox ever while hiking in real life this year, I am drawn to fox things)

As a way to ease stress come fall and winter, I knit. Knitting is my comfort zone. From September through March, I want to make something for every single human I know.

But I injured myself this week. Knitting. Certainly not as embarrassing as people’s injuries in some of the ER reports I’ve transcribed, but nonetheless it can feel demoralizing to injure yourself in the comfort zone.

Thankfully, I live enough of a hermit-like existence that it’s very rare someone asks me how I’m doing (a lot to expect from my teen cohabitant), but if they did, I would say, “Oh this? This ice pack on my arm is from trying to rappel up a rock face. I wasn’t accustomed to pulling my body weight up a vertical surface using my forearms. Overdid it.”

Or maybe, “I decided to give paragliding a try and had a rough landing.”

Instead, I learned that doing any one thing for six straight hours, even if it brings comfort, is not recommended. I wonder, if it’s good for us to break out of our comfort zones, when the comfort zone becomes uncomfortable, is that a good thing? One of my several dreams of knitting full-time lead to this business card. Another when I was in my 20s was called Waterwoman Knits. I always return to the realities of making a living some more realistic way. Nevertheless, I shall go forth with what I enjoy with fortitude once my arm heals.

businesscard

former business card

In taking a break from my rockin’ knitting in my spare time, here are a few bits of humor that made me laugh this week.

First, the Dalai Lama apparently has as difficult a time with compassionate nonjudgment as I do about a certain person.  (Although he did say “But, I don’t know” after the impression, which is a great catch-all compassionate not knowing).

If I was a comedian, I would be this woman, except my glasses are not as awesome. (I see from the more recent performance she is no longer single but what she has to say is awesome either way).

Social Life

Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky.  ~ Brene Brown
***
I withdrew myself from Facebook as a New Year’s gift to myself this year and haven’t looked back. There are many fabulous groups happening on Facebook, so it can provide a way for people to learn about a subject or share information. It is also a place it is easy to lose oneself in a web or sea of “friendships” that are really a greeting on a freeway or a marketing offer.
***
Here’s one example of a social media happening I love, but cannot post to Facebook so I am posting here. The group is called Whidbey Rocks where people in my community started painting rocks, hiding them on hiking trails, and asking finders to keep or re-hide the rocks. This message was apparently meant for me, because it was where I pulled out near Deception Pass during travels. It’s a great reminder any time, anywhere. I know exactly where I shield my heart and forget to choose the possibility of Love.
imag0982_1
imag0983
I re-hid it on a trail, intend to purchase some waterproof paint and create a new rock to pass on the good cheer.
***
Below is another social media use I appreciate that feels positive and helpful, and got me writing a list of all the things I would like to learn before I die.
  • Languages: Arabic (to be able to help in some way with the largest humanitarian disaster on the planet), continue to learn Mandarin, re-learn Spanish.
  • Basic jazz blues on the piano.
  • How to make a fire outdoors without a match – survival skill.
  • Scuba. ($$$$)
  • Climb a rock. ($$)
  • Climb a mountain. ($$$)
  • Basic carpentry skills.
  • Change a toilet seat. For some reason, 15 years of single parenthood has not left me with this skill. YouTube it is.
  • Have a healthy relationship with an offline human being.

P.S. Malcolm Gladwell wrote the 10,000 hour rule of practice theory in his book Outliers. Instead of being able to do a specific skill, he actually refers to becoming a “world-class expert,” those freakishly amazing people that stand out among all others. But mastering a skill is good enough for the rest of us.

San Juan Island Dreams

More than 2 days away from the desk was had this year. Hallelujah!

Thanks to my folks’ year-long 50th anniversary celebration, I landed on San Juan Island for a few days of exploration.

When I was a 9-year-old girl, I had the pure joy of staying for a summer in a cabin in the then sleepy island town of Friday Harbor while my dad studied at University of Washington Marine Labs. I remember spending hours peering into tide pools, swimming in the frigid water of the Pacific, feeding raccoons tiny marshmallows (say it isn’t so), and searching for jellyfish with my dad.

I learned this time around that Friday Harbor is named after a Hawaiian sheep farmer for the Hudson Bay Company in the 1850s named Joseph Poalie Friday. Perhaps he was a character, so they named the town after him. Not sure. Hudson Bay Company then was to America what Big Pharma is now. Hence, the military was activated to protect it when a man (the owner of the Lime Kiln) shot a Hudson Bay pig in his garden. For 12 years, while territory rights were disputed, both the British Army and the American Army were stationed on San Juan. Finally, the 49th parallel was agreed upon as the boundary line of the United States, and war was averted.

Hence, I visited English Camp, American Camp, and Lime Kiln, all three involved in the story of the war that almost was. I learned San Juan Island was the largest producer of lime in Washington State, up to 84,000 barrels a year of it until the 1950s when other components were used to make cement.

Animals sighted during my hikes: Ravens, California quail, my first-ever red fox only 2 feet from me when I scared it away, black-tail deer, rabbits, many birds. Apparently missed a pod of orcas by five minutes at Lime Kiln State Park where they appear daily. I had my dream experience while kayaking in my 20s from Sucia Island to Lopez Island when an entire group of orca fins rose out of the water only feet away from my kayak group at sunrise, so I’m set for life. Should I have one more chance to be in the San Juan Islands, I will definitely kayak again and enjoy those magnificent animals up close.

Need a break? Enjoy the show.

 

 

 

Boring Ourselves

Every day I try to do some type of relaxation practice, guided or on my own. On the topic of thoughts, I was listening to a mindfulness teacher describe a statistic that “psychologists say” we have 65,000 thoughts each day and that 95% of those thoughts are the same each day.

Anytime someone tells me “scientists say,” I immediately go on a hunt for a source. I couldn’t find one, other than a high-profile spiritual teacher/neuroscientist apparently stated this as fact in 2003. This individual brings up a negative reaction in me (something to do with money), so I don’t want to mention him here. If you care to experience a mind-blowing contemplation, visit this site that calculates statistics of EVERYTHING, including thoughts.

Regardless of statistics, the point that we determine our own worlds internally by the thought stew we carry around about ourselves, largely the same day in and day out is helpful. This means, we have two choices and/or both of those two choices.

  • We can leverage the 5% of “new” thoughts to create something.
  • We can learn to step back and observe the 95% of thoughts that repeat every story of everything we think we are, many of them not in our conscious awareness, give them a little space to breathe, and create room for something else. That’s where meditation helps, observing thoughts as they arise without judgment.

So here’s my boring story that I carry around.

I’m a single parent so I need to work all the time. There’s no way I can take a vacation with my child. Everything I do must go toward our survival. I’m lucky I can work from home and “be there” for my child. I’m lucky I’ve lived where I do with such a great food bank that helped us for years make it through the month. Nothing wrong with celebrating good fortune and gratitude. BUT.

Sperm-whales-pod

I am keenly aware I need to make room for a new story. Now that my daughter is a mini-adult or pre-adult or some version thereof, there is nothing I would like more than to create a memory with her that is of us having adventure and/or fun together. I was spoiled during my own childhood in that my parent lived on an academic calendar so summers were for road trips, family outings, lots of memories, even if masterfully designed on a budget for four children. But I have consistently told myself those kinds of experiences are off limits for me as a parent.

Despite telling myself I’m “there” for her, I can count on one hand the times over a decade I have participated in anything my daughter enjoys during summer like going to a lake with her, etc. . . opting out because I’m working. And the only time in 15 years other than her childhood illness that I made time off work to be with her alone was five days on the Oregon Coast. If I was to die tomorrow, this is the thing I would most regret. We definitely were bonded more closely than otherwise through illness, but if anyone wants a reminder to create memories with your child and you have a choice, I recommend taking another route than a two-year tour of cancer all accommodations paid by Medicaid.

To that end, I am putting my radar out for travel treks we can do together before she is legally or otherwise independent of me, and I am finding to my surprise there are several in the affordable range or at least won’t be paying them off until I’m 90. . . that’s what happens when you start to shift focus on anything. Opportunity.

 

 

 

 

Goal Setting and Global Perspective

It took me eight years to start to dream again post trauma. And start turning those dreams into goals.

People can encounter “starting over” through any major disruption, whether voluntary or involuntary. People can feel they’ve lost “everything” through death, illness, accident, divorce, geographical move, partnership, job change, etc.

In my humble experience, when starting over is involuntary, setting goals and dreaming about a future you choose can feel mighty scary or at very least pointless. I mean, won’t the rug just be pulled out from under you anyway?

Experience of groundlessness is a fabulous moment for spiritual awakening of course, so that’s the goody that always come from it.

As I’ve been working toward goals the past two years, small and large, I notice a recurring theme that could make anyone throw in the towel. But I don’t. I’m whole and healed enough to hang in there and believe in my future and the future of my dependent.

Here’s the pattern:

I lay out a schedule to focus my energies almost entirely on earning money and creating abundance, because one of my goals is to create a buffer between surviving and thriving. I actually have learned the secret of thriving without more money, but a girl can still have goals. It feels important to me to help myself whenever I have an option to do so rather than continue to rely on others in huge ways, as I had to during trauma. In other words, people have given more than enough and I have gratefully received, but if I have a choice to stand on my own rather than hold a hand out, I choose that.

Then something happens like it did this week. I broke a tooth and now have dental expenses (despite dental insurance) that equal the exact cost of the buffer I have created through diligent work over the past six months.

It can be anything, a sudden car failure or unexpected child’s expense. This happens over and over again just like the broken tooth, precisely when I feel I am finally gaining ground toward many of my goals.

Here’s where Global Perspective helps big time.

I can choose to see the fact that I have earned precisely enough to meet each minor catastrophe as a miracle. I feel loved and supported by the universe.

Instead of focusing on the fact that if I lived in a country with better health insurance and health costs I would not need to work as hard, I can focus on the fact that I have access to good dental care when the vast majority of people on the planet do not.

I can focus on the goals I have accomplished without impedance, like fundraising for, training for and completing a sanctioned full marathon. It was my 5th marathon training/fundraising attempt, but I finally completed it. So global perspective teaches me to acknowledge there are exceptions to Murphy’s law.

I will not give up.

May there be days like this.

 

Meditation for Kids

Having lived in the childhood cancer world for a time, I always appreciate creations that can help families who are there. I also understand the power of meditation and inward journeying to cope with life’s pain, so I am excited to share this resource.

Kids Kicking Cancer

You can find a series of breathing exercises including one about coping with fear of needles (big one for us) HERE

If my dad had access to technology when I was young, he might have created something about the Easter rabbit. Instead, we heard banging pots and pans as he chased a giant bunny out of the house each year. I believed a 9-foot rabbit existed for years.

This dad with animation skills transformed home videos of his kids into action adventures, and introduced me to Kids Kicking Cancer. Thank you, Action Movie Kid and Dad.

Measure of Self

IMAG0832(Abutilon, Chinese Lantern, favorite new houseplant)

How do we measure the Self?  Can we?

Recently I’ve become aware that concepts like “self-esteem” or “self-worth” have little to do with anything that can be measured. Yes, you can take a TEST that may lead you to consider how self-esteem impacts everything in your life and lead you straight to a therapist’s office. But I have noticed that letting go of the concept of a fixed Self actually fosters a sense of great possibility, happiness, and dare I say self-esteem?

Think of it this way. If someone says something negative about us, it is easy to feel bad about the Self. If someone says something positive, it is easy to feel good. We may arrive at a third assessment of the exact same thing about ourself. In all cases, this input may have zero to do with whatever Self is, may reflect more about what the person who said it is going through, or at least begs the question, “Where is the real self?”

Most often, though, feedback about what we perceive as Self is more subtle. Like assumptions when we are at a doctor’s office or workplace and everyone makes ice-breaking conversation about what you did this weekend for fun, who your spouse is, or what your local football team did. In truth, you may live a life and inhabit a “self” that does not fit any cultural “norms” or what people grasp as norm. No spouse, no love of football, and your version of fun would not be believed.

When you start to pull at a strand of Self, you soon realize the vastness of the ball of yarn. The interconnection of all that is and ever will be throughout time. Each of us is a piece of that. Self cannot be measured.

IMG_2828

I loved reading this letter to those who are struggling by Leo, the author of Zen Habits to remind us all about the miracles of never being alone as humans.

For me, human interconnectedness is only half the solace, comfort, joy and wisdom we can access being alive on Earth. The other half is non-human. There are days I seek counsel from a council of trees for even five minutes, and I come away replenished.

Each time, I wonder how many people have forgotten they can quickly access such a powerful source? I consider myself very lucky to live in an area rich in access to non-human life, but natural beauty can be found anywhere. Even in a sand pit. That’s what my childhood in a desert taught me.

I am the queen of alone. I do alone really well and find great joy in solitude. But all of us can experience loneliness, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, worry about making the “right choices” for ourselves. Should you need reminder you are part of one huge community, try spending five minutes somewhere near a plant, animal, trees, grass, and each time your lungs fill, focus on that living thing. Each time you breathe out, gift your breath to that living thing. If you do this for even 30 breaths, it is a powerful way to increase your awareness of being not alone. Ever.

Loneliness gone in 30 seconds. Self endless.

* * *

Should you care to watch a “spirit animal” that found me, here is one of the smallest mammals on Earth that despite their size can run 100 miles each night!

Pause

The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.

~ Matsuo Basho

Loving the long days that allow time after the desk into the evening. As I meandered yesterday along a bluff overlooking the ocean, I listened to a buoy bell. Click video below if you want to hear a similar buoy. It reminded me of a temple bell. Silence of the green woods below the bluff was that much more palpable after the bell.

 

IMAG0822

IMAG0826

IMAG0825

Color and light

 

By Erin W

Country Crossers

Walking among giants

To cross the country on foot has been a dream for a decade now. From where I sit at the moment, gaining shapeless form while working at a desk toward some goals, such a walk seems more fantasy than probable for me. I do make an effort to walk some each day no matter what.

I wonder if a space in my life will open where the planning, logistics, support and financial wherewithal line up before I leave the earth. But if not, every time I learn of others who have even attempted the trek I say Bravo! in spirit.

Today I saw this NYT article, Running Across America, celebrating folks who cross the US on foot in any way (running, walking, crawling).  I realized such a walk is the only thing that will return me to social media, whatever app will be the norm by then.

Caution from Ms. Merino, runner featured in the article makes me appreciate how important good planning is:

“She says she will try again, and next time plan her route better, since she’d been surprised by finding that some of the roads on her route were closed.”

The article links to many who have crossed, but left out many names I’ve researched, including four from my small local community.

Dusty Dawson

Cameron Coupe

Louie Rochon

What about Helga and Clara Estby who walked the journey in 1896, when the US was a mass of forests, swamps, wild animals and people and few roads?

or

Peace Pilgrim, who crossed the US at least 5 times and more?

If my time should arrive, I would have no design on speed, only endurance.  I would want to train the body sufficiently to sustain a certain number of miles a day in general and map out a solid route plan.  But as most of the folks say who’ve accomplished the feat, it’s working with your own mind that’s the biggest challenge.  Maybe that’s why it appeals to so many.  The ultimate mind game.