Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love Love Love: Sing It!

No matter how I feel about romantic love at any given time, there are those songs that make me wish they'd been written for or about me. (You know the ones…boom box held over head by boy standing in pouring rain?  Yes, those songs.)

There are also the songs that capture, perfectly, an emotion--either of love or loss, that can let me tap back into that emotion, in minutes.

I love love.  Yes, it's a true statement.  I am as equally enchanted by pop music magic that makes love so simple as I am by gut-wrenching tunes that sound like heartbreak.   I gravitate toward lyrics of possibility, of promise, and of endings--the whole darn cycle.  I love big and wide, and although I wouldn't call myself romantic, It's sure fun to sing about.

I know this is only a slide over the surface of a song list, but:  Here's wishing you songs to sing loudly, songs that allow you to shed some tears when you need to, and to dance freely around your living room (or out in your yard as the case may be) when you can.  And, last but not least, here's wishing you songs that remind you of the loves that have come before, in all their poignancy, the ones in your present, and the ones who (may or may not be out there) waiting for you in the future.

1)  "Nobody Knows Me" by Lyle Lovett is the one tune that so clearly articulates how I envision my ideal love:  "I like cream in my coffee;  I hate to be alone on Sunday.  And nobody knows me like my baby."  Yes.  [Though, must be noted, I don't like cream in my coffee.]

2)  "Only You" by Yaz.  "All I needed was the love you gave.  All I needed for another day.  And all I ever knew, only you."  These lyrics are the dreamy remembrances of a 15 year old, but they are the lodged into my psyche securely.  "Wonder if you'll understand, it's just the touch of your hand behind a closed door."

3)  "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" by Bob Dylan (performed by Shawn Colvin):  "I've seen love go my door; it's never been this close before.  It's never been so easy or so slow."  Whenever a new romance starts up, this song comes to mind.  And, it's my litmus:  Would I miss this person if he was to disappear from my life?  "I have only known careless love."

4)  "When it Don't Come Easy" by Patty Griffin slays me, in a broken open sort of way:  "Red lights are flashing on the highway; I wonder if we're ever gonna get home…everywhere the water's getting rough; your best intentions may not be enough."  "But if you break down, I'll drive out and find you; if you forget my love, I try to remind you.  Stay by you.  But it don't come easy." Love and loss captured perfectly in the images.  "So many things that I had before, it don't matter to me now.  Tonight I cry for the love that I've lost, and the love I never found."  Because what other reasons are there?

5)  "Outloud" by Dispatch = Happy making, every time I listen:  "Would you be the wind to blow me home?"  "And if we were walking through a crowd, well you know I'd be proud if you called my name out loud."  "Do you suppose I would come running?  I suppose I would."  :)  I suppose I would.

6)  "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison:  This seems to transcend any category I would like to put it in.  "Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic. And when that foghorn blows, I will be coming home….I wanna hear it; I don't have to fear it" / "I want to rock your gypsy soul, just like back in the days of old, and together we will float into the mystic."
Yep, soul rocking.

7)  "Nothing Without Love"  by Ruth Moody:  "Come and get me baby, before I get too old.  If love is everything, then we've got nothing without love."  Ahhh…

And, on a lighter note:

8)  "Girls Chase Boys" by Ingrid Michaelson:  "Don't call me.  I won't call you.  Let's just call it over." :)  "All the broken hearts in the world still beat. " :)  Indeed they do.  "I've got two hands, one beating heart, and I'll be all right."  SO simple.

9)  "Get Me" Everything but the Girl:  "To know yourself is to let yourself be loved;  and I want to be addictive, I want to be secure; I want to wake up after the night before.  Do you ever get me?"  (If so, lovely songwriter,  you might be the first.  :)

10)  "Real Love" by Mary J. Blige:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  "I'm searching for a real love; someone to set my heart free."  I'm not sure I'm looking for this, but if it showed up?  :)  For now, I'll just pretend I've got all the moves as I dance around my house.

11)  Oh, if I'm really honest, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" is on this list too (damn it).  But, shhh.  That's a secret.  "I didn't know I would feel it, but it's in my way!"  


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Standing in the Eye

I've been listening to Brandi Carlisle's "The Eye" on repeat of late.  I get fixated on songs sometimes, finding they offer up mantras, messages, reminders…comfort in the repetition, for whatever reason.  She reminds me that "I am a sturdy soul, and there ain't no shame in lying down in the bed you made."

There's a fabulous gallows humor occurring in Juneau of late regarding rainfall--"The warmest January on record" has left snow sports in the dust (or moss, as the case may be).  People are apologizing for the weather--"Usually it's…so much nicer…there's more to do…there's more sun…"  We joke about building arks.  And, the humor is just one more indication of the utter strength of character present in folks here.

I've had momentary flashes of "what have I gotten myself into?" But they are followed by moments of fabulous laughter with a beautiful new friend; a rainy hike out to the beach; a moment of silence punctuated only by the trickle of a waterfall.  These gifts?  Priceless and inexplicable.  And I know I've only just begun here:  "Can you fight the urge to run for another day?  You might make it further if you learn to stay." 

I will always have them, these urges to move on;  They are as much a part of me as any appendage.  I am appreciating, fully (even when I resist it), the practice that I came here for:  to fully sink into a space that holds so much magic it's almost inconceivable, to let the reality of all that's come before simply be, and to allow myself a quiet space to breathe and expand back out.  I was talking with a visiting artist at a dinner last week, and we were discussing the parallels between Alaska and New Mexico (where he lives and I've lived).  And it brought into such clear relief, that this magic is what pulls me--it's tough to put a finger on, but you know it when you feel it.  And once you do?  It's so very hard to enter spaces where it's not present.

"You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you're standing in the eye."  Dancing my way back to center, and feeling immense gratitude for those who are dancing along side.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Walking (Kind of) Calmly into the Darkness

Slowly, but surely, the days are shortening at the rate of six minutes a day.  I have done the math;  It does not bode well for my sensitive psyche.  I recognize that from now until the winter solstice, I will be in constant search of coping mechanisms.  I've determined that the gym is a better place than the bar to fritter away the darker hours, so am establishing a routine.  I've decided that television may play a role in my life again.  I am comfortable with that.  Everyone says, "The first fall is the toughest."  Since most of the people I speak with have lived here for multiple years, and have not succumbed to hard core depression or alcoholism, I have to trust that there is an acclimation that occurs.

I have committed to playing outside no matter what the weather.  I bought a ski pass.  I've got this thing.  Except when I don't.   For someone who has been prepared to flee at any given moment, who has always determined that I am safe as long as I can put any necessary belongings into the car and drive away?  I've got to laugh at my choice.  I've chosen a place that is more difficult (and expensive) to get in and out of than any before.  I'm proud of myself for taking this risk, but I also recognize that…well, this is a hard core move for a transient creature.  If you're traveling within Alaska, you're just traveling;  If you leave the state, you've gone "outside."  Um, this phrasing freaks me out a bit.  Yes.  It does.  I'm trying to roll like a local, but…

A few weeks ago, I spent the day a writing workshop where we were asked to examine how we interact with the world around us, and also note what the world around us offers up or requires of us…I can't help but note that this environment offers up spaces and experiences that allow me to interact with it in a pretty singular way…

And so, yes, on clear nights, I look up.  Northern lights are joining us.  Stars are fucking startling.  The glacier glows in the moon.  This is just the beginning of crystal nights.  I know this.  Hope reigns eternal that the power of place can override the fears that emerge.  I'm dreaming of cross country skiing on frozen lakes, snowshoeing to remote cabins…and settling in for some good long sleeps…for now I hike boggy trails, breathe in the expansive views, and remind myself that there isn't really anything like this.

I was talking with a colleague last week about how little I'd gotten done since I'd moved here…wondering why I couldn't build community, meet all of the teachers in the region,  teach classes and build a social life in one fell swoop--and she looked startled, and said, "You've been here, what, five months?"  And I felt startled.  She was right.  Reminders.

I'm flying to Anchorage on Sunday, heading to the big city for a conference presentation…and to go to Nordstrom.  Oh, brave new world.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Compression and Expansion

Rebecca Solnit, in The Faraway Nearby writes:  "The bigness of the world is redemption.  Despair compresses you into a small  space and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground.  To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest"  (p. 30).  As is apt to happen, my story has caught up with me.  As is apt to happen, I am working my way back to the larger world so I can thrust this story from my hands and into the ether, because it does me no good to cling to.

I've been moving through the world as openly as I can in the past months; I've taken in; I've offered out.  And now?  I'm finally hitting that space where I realize that I might need a bit more incubation before taking on anything else, but "everything else" is heading my way.  I continue to carve spaces for kindness and unconditional love to etch themselves into my core--dreaming of rivulets in my psyche…one drop at a time carving careful canyons through me.  I've found I've cultivated a good amount of gentleness with self, and I am working on extending this same gentleness into situations that are proving more challenging emotionally and spiritually.  Always, always, always:  returning to intention and practice.

I traveled by ferry last weekend to a yoga workshop on the heels of a challenging week, and I was looking to quiet a nervous system that had taken in a bit too much…and I recognized, only after the first evening of practice, that I had tucked every bit of stress I've been feeling into my shoulders and back--such a clear physical manifestation of stress and the interconnectedness of mind and body…and such a clear reminder that I needed to acknowledge, that, despite the awesome photographs, the gorgeous scenery, and fun lessons learned, that the past few months have not been easy.  Sometimes the most worthwhile things in life are just plain exhausting.

I have been toying with the idea of expanding my existence to allow space for a partner.  I have not met this person, necessarily, but I am recognizing that for the first time in a long long time, this might be something I'm interested in:  "Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone"--Elizabeth Gilbert (Committed, p. 91).  But this in itself is a pandora's box of trouble that I'm uncertain I want to open.  e.e. cummings writes:  "Be of love (a little)/ more careful/ than of everything.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Picking and Choosing What to Leave Behind

I have no idea where the past month has gone.  I know I'm here, but I don't know where I've been.

I moved into my house (which is slowly becoming home) a week and a half ago.   The lead up to it saw me inhabit  seven different spaces in three weeks.  [Maybe that's where the past month went].  By the time I arrived here, my car smelled like a wet dog, and unpacking it was a bit of an archaeological dig.  However, I did find some things I hadn't seen since I moved away from Tucson three years ago:  I unearthed a couple of prints I had purchased in Madrid, NM  that I had loved for years, and had totally forgotten; a baggie of antique marbles; Jack's collar and photos; and a brass Ganesha that I think has been riding under my driver's seat for multiple years.

I brought my belongings into the house and realized that it felt like a very large and echo-y place…and I had that momentary flash of "WTF?"  Then, I reminded myself that the "F***" is life (thank you Cheryl Strayed for this reminder and phrasing).  And then I settled down (as much as I could in my moving-in manic stage).  I filled the refrigerator with too much food; I made myself waffles for breakfast; I played music loudly and danced through the living room.  Friends arrived to take me garage-saling, to deliver a couch, then a bed, and then…I played the tunes a little bit louder and realized that it's a good ride, this.  And I could feel myself sighing and expanding into the experience.  It wasn't until a rainy hike that Monday after work that I finally breathed deeply into me again.

It will be a ride.  I tweak the dials on the scene--a grill on the back patio; a new speaker to add to my sound system; a cow-shaped creamer that is amusing me to no end.  The bonus?  I actually want to be unpacking here.  I realized I've kept a bit of myself packed and ready to flee for the past years:  "camping" in the places I've lived and rented (investing only in things that were easily transportable, since I knew the inevitable purge would be imminent), and traveling so much for work that I didn't notice.  And here?  Here I only want to fully ground myself into the space, to devour the landscape around me, and to engage…to engage fully with the world around me.

A dear friend's dog (who was also dear friend) passed this week, and this prompted me to look through pictures I hadn't revisited in more years than I'd care to think about.  I've tucked so many bits of myself and my past away.  I think it's time to celebrate it all a little bit more.  I think it's time to look at the past years as a time that has continually led me to beautiful friends, to amazing spaces, places,  and adventures, and a little less like something that I'd like to hide away from myself.

We can choose.  Here's to reclaiming all that is amazing and leaving the detritus in the dust.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Edges of Understandings

I'm celebrating a month as an Alaskan this week.  It's been a sprint; it's been a wander; it's been exhaustion; it's been exhilaration; it's included moments of feeling stunned, and moments of feeling settled; it's been life.

Those of you who know me well, know my tipping point when it comes to being homeless…I'm a fabulous gypsy, but there comes a time when I need to lay it all down and settle into a space.  I've hit that place this week.   I'm scared to do an analysis of the ratio between "time spent in flux waiting for a home" and "time settled into a home" in my life. [Hell, maybe I should go ahead and do it; I might be surprised].  Well, I've hit the proverbial wall with my current instantiation of homelessness, but, there is light, yes.  There is mooring on the horizon.  And, being a woman of action, I am a squeaky wheel.   Response to the squeakiness has thus far been well-received, and things are moving forward.

So, amidst the unsettled-ness of my current world, I continue to walk through moments of awe and wow, and moments that remind me that I am on the edge of my understandings of the world around me here.

Some more observations:
1)  I asked students to share "interesting observations" from their weekends.  I got:  "I was having dinner at my fiancé's parents' house and we saw ten eagles descend on a bait ball and tear it to shreds"; "My daughter went out to our net-fishing camp with my sister's family for the next two weeks"; "we caught more king salmon this weekend than we ever have before;" "There's a construction crew in our village that is raising each of the houses eight feet off the ground…"  And I thought, shit, I've got some googling to do.  

2)  I have been running into these little mossy creatures who live in the woods--they are tree stumps (well, that fact has been wholly obscured by their full green regalia, but that's my assumption) --and I can't shake the fact that they are watching me from beneath the moss--I feel like they are nature's Ewoks.  

3)  The whales I am seeing are humpbacks (apparently--I've got a new "marine creatures handbook" that is helping me identify all of my new friends).  Their presence makes me feel tiny and huge at the same time (just as it is possible for me to feel utterly unsettled and completely at home at the same time.)  

4)  Tlingit people have two distinct moieties ("each of two parts into which a thing can be divided"):  the Eagle and the Raven.  These moieties are "love birds" apparently--and woo each other since you can only marry outside of your own moiety.  Within each moiety, there are different clans (all gloriously based on the animals of the region).  The Eagle and the Raven are each represented in totems throughout the region (including the front of the local Fred Meyer).  I appreciate the presence of each.

5)  That being said, I've also learned that the Raven's call can take multiple forms--almost like a mocking jay (Hunger Games nod).  The eagle, on the other hand, has a chirp that is seemingly at odds with its sheer physical strength--it's lilting and high pitched.  One of my coworkers came back in to the office after having said goodbye for the day.  Apparently, a raven told him to go back.  He returned for a time, but couldn't figure out why the raven had told him to, so he left again.  

6) It rains.  And people wear "XTRATUFS" (aka TUFS)--these brown rubber boots that are a staple in a Juneau wardrobe.  I have no Tufs (yet), but I am getting some good mileage out of my Bogs.   "Is it waterproof?" is a question I'm getting used to asking.

7)  My schedule is opening back up next week after three-weeks of intensive teaching and feeling as if I've built one too many planes while flying.  I have a lot to learn.

8)  Speaking of planes, Alaska Airlines throws "Thank you" parties for its loyal customers (which is funny, since in Juneau you don't have another choice--except in summer, when Delta also flies in and out).  I attended one as a guest this evening with a colleague and his wife who are in the Million mile cohort--since the choices are only air or water in and out of this place, the airline has a good thing going.

9)  When I do unpack my car and move into my new house, you can bet it's going to be a darn long time before I decide to pack it back up again.  I've got enough to learn here to last me at least a decade (at least).

10)  It rains.  Thank goodness...  Or the 20,000 people who pass by here in cruise ships (um, 1500 crew + approximately 2500 passengers per boat…with 3-5 pulling in each day…) might decide to stay….and I am awfully fond of low population density...  That being said, standing in line at the grocery, or walking around downtown, I'm constantly in a swirl of languages from around the world…interesting sub-culture this cruise ship world.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Phenomenal Women Passing

Here’s how I process and here’s how I love.  I look for words.  I have been reading Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost for the past couple of days.  She says, “Lost really has two disparate meanings.  Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing” (p. 22).  I have been wandering in a new space where the unfamiliar has been appearing to me daily, reminding me that the world is vast and awesome, that the unfamiliar awakens my spirit, inspires me, and allows me to walk through the world in a more spacious way than I have for a while.

"I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision." --Maya Angelou

This same spaciousness and space has led me further from family during a time when I have also been confronted with a true loss, of the familiar falling away, and I mourn.  A death at 93 is not a tragedy, but it is a loss.  A phenomenal woman who shaped me, loved me, and who is a contributor to both my wanderlust and my spirit, has moved on from this world.  My grandmother shared a generation with another woman who inspired us with her words and her passion for this life, and they left this world within days of each other.  I'd like to think that Maya Angelou's words and spirit can help me process the loss of someone I have loved so simply all of my life.

"The ache for home lives in all of us.  The safe place we can go as we are and not be questioned."  --Maya Angelou

I am from everywhere and nowhere, but I come from a family of oil rigs, football, and chicken fried steak.  I am from a world of Baptists and big families.  And, although I've never lived there, I am of the red dirt soil that is south central Oklahoma.  I am born to gentle accents and catfish.  I know that black eyed peas are for good luck.  I know that okra is damn good fried.  I know that there are highways so flat you might lose the horizon.  Where I come from is love.  It’s not easy love.  It’s not lazy love.  I come from people who know, without a doubt, that this is the reason that we are here in this world.  I come from hardscrabble folks who have become more and more "comfortable" with every generation, but I believe that there is a scrappiness and a persistence, a grit, that runs in our lineage.   I am grateful, because it is this grit that has allowed me to run far and wide in this world.  

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."  --Maya Angelou

With the loss of my grandmother, I have lost another connection to family and "home." I have also been recollecting the experiences and influences in my life that allow me to walk inside of my own skin.  I hold the memory of the woman who regularly reminded me that I am enough, that I am loved, and I know I was generously afforded spaces where there was nothing to do but love.  I settle into memories of chicken frying in the kitchen and hands of gin rummy, and the smell of perfume and lipstick kisses on my cheek.

The fact that this world has held the hearts of women as phenomenal as these two who have come before me is worth celebrating, and with this is the recognition that there are many of us mourning, rejoicing, inspiring, loving, and fully embracing who we are because of women like these.

I am a Woman
Phenomenal Woman.
That's me.
--Maya Angelou