Journey 90: Traveling Across Kansas


Today’s journey was a literal one, first of all, as my mom and sisters and I traveled across Kansas today. Tomorrow is my Aunt Annie’s funeral. It’s a sad reason for the trip, and yet none of us would miss this opportunity to be with my aunt’s three children, my cousins, to remember this special lady. 

Greg made a very generous offer, before the four of us departed. He offered to meet us on the voyage home tomorrow, with Debbie’s car, so that she can head south toward her home in Oklahoma. Greg’s willingness to meet us in Kansas enabled the four of us to make this trip in one vehicle today instead of two. 


Secondly, the journey was one of reminiscing and remembering, chatting and connecting. Debbie graciously drove. We laughed and talked and shared about life. And we pulled up fun memories of long ago trips to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins who lived in a suburb near Wichita. 

We made the trip several times by bus, which was exciting for my young sisters and me. I realize now how challenging it must have been for a single mom with active daughters! Most often we traveled by car, sometimes with my grandparents packed into the car with us. 

The time spent with my family in Kansas was always magical, interesting, fun. We were close to our cousins, in age and in fondness. How quickly the years have passed. When did we all enter middle age?

Tonight that connection was instantly reformed with the cousins , as if we had all just spent time together last week. There were hugs and tears, laughter and shared memories. After spending time together at the funeral home during visitation, we gathered at my aunt’s home to share stories. 

The culmination of our evening was dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant. The buffet style meant everyone could choose what they wanted to eat. We were a big group that grew as other family members joined us. And we were a happy group, mindful of the reason we were gathered, and yet aware too that Aunt Annie was surely among us, laughing too at the tales circling the tables. 

Tomorrow we will say our “See you laters” to this beautiful lady. Tonight it was family time, mingled with love and humor, joy and sorrow. And for the first time in a very long time, my sisters and mom and I are sharing a room. When we were young, my mom would tell us stories after we were tucked into our beds, her voice comforting in the darkness and her imaginative tales enchanting. It’s been too many years since I’ve heard Mom’s story-telling. I can’t wait for lights out tonight! 


Journey 89: Pools of Reflection

Reflection pool

When my son Nate was unexpectedly called in to work today, I had the pleasure of picking up his daughter Aubrey from school. Normally this bright eyed girl is starving when she bounces into my car and we immediately head to one of her favorite restaurants. That was my plan for this afternoon.

Yet Aubrey decided it was a gorgeous day to go to the park. I agreed and was delighted to comply. I let her choose the park, and she picked Cunningham Park which contains lots of play areas for children, many places for quiet reflection, and memorials for victims and survivors of the May 22, 2011 tornado. There is also a wonderful area dedicated to the thousands of workers and volunteers who have helped Joplin to recover and heal.

Aubrey couldn’t have picked a better place to hang out. Today is the 5th anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve thought of him all day, with a mixture of sadness and joy, bright memories popping up at random. He fought such a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer, enduring surgeries and treatments, both traditional and experimental. In the end, the cancer won. But it only claimed his body. His spirit never faltered, his love and joy never waned. My dad not only taught me valuable lessons about life, he taught me about living with hope and humor while walking through the shadow of death, and about dying with grace and dignity.

dad e

Mingled with the memories of my dad today, were memories of my cousin Mindy, who passed in January at way too tender an age. She was so fond of my dad, and he of her. When she was fighting her first battle with cancer, she surprised my dad, who shaved his head for years, by whisking off her wig to show that she was bald as well. The memory makes me laugh and cry, at the same time.

This past week, I’ve lost two more family members. My Aunt Annie passed last Thursday, my mom’s older sister, a fun, vibrant, family oriented woman. She was my dad’s sister-in-law for a time. I’m sure she’s found him in the Beyond to at least say hello! And just yesterday, my Uncle Dale stepped into eternity as well, a quiet but rock solid man who journeyed at the side of my dad’s sister, June, for more than 60 years. I can imagine the conversations my dad and uncle are having now. I’ll be traveling to back to back funerals this week.

Reflection memorial

Aubrey knew none of this, and yet with an awareness beyond her years, she was reflective as well today. She played at the park and we also spent time walking through the memorials, speaking of those who were lost May 22. She asked questions and made observations. She is very connected to the event of the tornado and the aftermath. She doesn’t show fear so much as curiosity and a sense of respect for the victims and their families.

At the Children’s Reflective Pool, we read the plaque dedicating the pretty pool with the spraying fountain to “the children of Joplin who would no longer play at the park”. She sat before the pool, lost in thought herself, while I watched her and felt gratitude for her old soul with its inherent wisdom. Instinctively, my granddaughter took me to the best place in Joplin today to allow my own thoughts to settle into treasured memories. The Reflective Pool provided a place to be soothed by beauty and a place to drop an ache that had gathered around my heart, even as Aubrey dropped tiny pebbles into the water. The ripples that spread out across the shimmering water reminded me that the lives of my loved ones are still rippling outward, touching others, inspiring others, ever flowing in waves of love and light. They have not ceased to exist; they exist in another plane, another realm. I sense their presence now and I will see them again. I can’t wait to tell my granddaughter more about them.

Reflection pool and Aubrey

Journey 88: International Mail Art Project

Mail art turquoise cards

I completed my mail art today and tomorrow I’ll mail it, along with cards created by Dayan and Aubrey. Dayan and I experienced our first mail art project late last year, entering our works of art in a project sponsored by The Memorial Art Reference Library in Joplin. We had so much fun and enjoyed viewing the many submissions in January at the exhibit. Shortly after, I received a notification about another mail art project, via Twitter, this one hosted by an artist in Austria.

Mail art turquoise

We decided to submit works of art for this, our first international mail art project. As a reminder, mail art is a post card sized work of art that is created and then mailed. The first one we did could be any subject, any media. This project has the theme of Turquoise. The word or the color should be represented in the art work.

Dayan had the excellent idea of creating a piece that spells out the word Turquoise, by cutting the letters from pictures of monuments and buildings in different cities around the world. Secured on a turquoise background as well, his work is titled, “The world in…TURQUOISE”. I love the originality and creativity of his work. And, since geography, maps and architecture are passions of his, it showcases his interests. I was thrilled as well that the E in turquoise is represented by the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Mail art turquoise Dayan

Little Aubrey joined us last Tuesday as Dayan and I were beginning our postcards. I had picked her up from school and she was all in when I told her what we were doing. She created a lovely card that has the word TURQUOISE above a sea of the same color. I was actually amazed that she did that herself, selecting a crayon that was the perfect color for her work. Aubrey recently gave me a poster that she made in school that listed a goal of hers for 2015. She wrote, “My goal is to be a better artist.” What a great intention and now a work of hers is on its way to a far away country.

Mail art turquoise Aubrey

I was the slow one in the group. I started my post card last Tuesday and just completed it today. It is a very simple design, and yet it incorporates turquoise in the background and my door symbol and my word for the year. For added textural interest, I watered down the tempera paint and created a wash of turquoise. Then I smoothed a paper towel over the wet paint, textured side down, absorbing some of the excess paint and leaving subtle imprints behind when I removed the paper. The door is wide open, symbolizing opportunities, and my word is a reminder to keeping following the paths that appear. I flecked black paint over the whole design. Not difficult to create, yet I enjoyed the process and I am happy with it!

Mail art turquoise Cindy

Tomorrow the post cards will be mailed, to comply with a March 31 or before postmark, on their way to join hundreds of other mail art projects that have been mailed to Austria from around the globe. I am thankful for the opportunity and grateful for grandchildren who are willing to join in with creative abandon. I’m wondering what opportunity will appear next?

Mail art turquoise all

Journey 87: Modern Day Alchemy

moving energy out of clutter find simplicity

Today has been a decluttering day, as I moved back into my former office with the desire to get rid of things. I find it interesting that as I am “decluttering” my body, ridding it of junk, the energy of clearing is moving beyond me to my environment.

Greg graciously loaded items, some of them quite large and heavy, into the back of his truck and drove away to DAV (Disabled American Veterans…a resale type shop to donate items to that are then sold with the proceeds going to benefit disabled veterans) to donate the things I no longer wanted, needed or used. I turned up the music on my iPod, favoring The Lord of the Rings soundtracks, and literally rolled up my sleeves.

moving energy cluttered office

The side of the room that didn’t get cleared today

I am dismayed that this charming little room has become a junk room. It started innocently enough…an extra box stored in there…then containers of old family photos, an extra table and soon papers and items piled up, as I quit going in the room at all, using my laptop in the living room, abandoning my office totally. Even the cat’s litter box ended up in there eventually, which made a statement I believe! When a room gets clogged with clutter and junk, the energy in the room becomes clogged as well. That slow, heavy energy becomes stagnant, pushing me away from the room as surely as a bouncer guarding the door would.

Curiosity led me to look up the word “clutter”. Amazing. The word comes from the Middle English word “clotter”, meaning to clot, or to coagulate or form into lumps. That is exactly what happens to the energy around clutter….it coagulates and becomes sluggish, lumpy, stuck. Not the energy that I want in a room that will foster and support creativity.

moving energy bakers rack

Plants and rack back on the deck

And so out the door went the big blocky desk and a left over car seat and booster seat from Aubrey’s toddler days. Gone for good is the litter box and stacks of old files and random pieces of paper…on the left side of the room. The yellow baker’s rack was returned to the front deck, along with flowering  plants that survived the winter indoors. Two garden chairs rest again on the brick patio. I carried two large bags of trash to the dumpster in the alleyway, symbolizing the removal of stale energy as much as actually removing junk. I am systematically moving around the perimeter of the room, sorting, throwing away, giving away, saving. Anything that no longer serves me, interests me or inspires me is leaving.

moving energy clearing clutter

Creating fresh space

I did not finish today, however, it was a great start. Already the energy in the room feels lighter, flows, invites. I am excited to continue in the room tomorrow, hoping to finish or come close to finishing so that I will enjoy being in the room again, sunlight streaming in through the six windows, and cheery views of the back garden visible. I can create in such a space. I can read and meditate and reflect. I am thinking on what to call this room, preferring not to call it an office any longer. When the right name comes to me, I’ll christen the room, and take my place there.

Denise Linn says, “Clutter clearing is modern day alchemy.” I like that! Alchemy is a magical process of transformation. I am doing that now, energetically. Next, I will practice a different sort of alchemy in that space, transforming thoughts into a flow of ideas and words. May they be just as magical.

moving energy Rilynn

Rilynn wondering what all the fuss is about

Journey 86: Bloom Where I Am


With the arrival, officially, of spring, I have the urge to get my hands dirty, digging and planting in my garden. Very chilly weather and the possibility of a bit more snow is making me bide my time. 

After a long day today, between work and a trip to Arkansas, I bounced between ideas tonight, pondering which journey to take. I gave in to the desire to create and get my hands dirty, allowing soulfulness to guide me. 

One of my favorite ways to unwind is to putter, as I call it, around the house. Decorating a little here. Rearranging a vignette here. I brought gardening indoors, creating two spring vignettes that incorporated fresh tulips that I had purchased yesterday and delicate yellow pansies that I planted in white tea cups. 


The vintage wooden sieve holds, nestled within, a white pitcher filled with pinky orange tulips, an ivy topiary and a white footed bowl containing four speckled eggs. It’s a simple arrangement that looks fresh and pretty. Next to the sieve sits a pair of white porcelain birds and the tea cup turned planter, holding the pansies. 

In the bedroom the vintage suitcase got a make-over, bringing a breath of spring into the room. The tall wire cloche holds more specked eggs in soft natural colors of blue, green and cream. A small milk pitcher balances the cloche while the Tolkien quote print moved in from the porch to rest against the back of the suitcase. A scented white candle and another cup of pansies completed the vignette. 

I made a mess in the kitchen, adding potting soil to tea cups and planting the remainder of the pansies in a blue dragonfly pot that will grace the front porch tomorrow. That’s okay. I got my hands dirty! I smiled as I inhaled the earthy frangrance of the soil. And every time I walk past the dining room table or the vintage suitcase I feel joy surge in my heart. Welcome spring!


Journey 85: Boom….Complete the Whole30

finished the whole 30

Boom is right! I did it…. I completed the Whole30 healthy eating plan. Thirty days of higher awareness of what I was putting on my plate, and more importantly, what I was putting in my body. Following the guidelines from the Whole30 website, I am spending about 10 days after my first Whole30 evaluating where I am and reintroducing the forbidden foods, except for sugar, back into my diet to see if my body reacts negatively to them.

The evaluation part is easy. I feel great. I know….I know….I know that this is the very best eating plan for me, a diet that focuses on lean proteins, vegetables and limited amounts of fruit, and healthy fats such as avocadoes and nuts. That’s it. That’s so simple. It has not been difficult for me to get into the routine of eating this way. Every meal needs to have that combo, when possible. I keep staples on hand like walnuts and avocadoes, lean meats in the freezer, eggs….lots of organic eggs. I buy bags of chopped salad for convenience. I add a fresh, chopped tomato and half an avocado, chopped as well, and a diced egg, and I have lunch.

Even when I eat out I have done well. “Naked” meats, meaning no coating, grilled or baked. And veggies. Baked sweet potatoes, plain in a restaurant or with clarified butter, also known as ghee, when I’m at home, are so filling. Almond butter and sliced apples are my favorite snack with afternoon tea or if I get hungry in the evenings. I have found my craving for sugar has disappeared. As has my craving for bread and carbs. I lost almost 10 pounds on the Whole30, which is an awesome bonus. Primarily, I want to feel great by reducing inflammation in my body, regaining flexibility and maintaining high energy levels. I am doing that. My one test each morning is to flex the fingers on my right hand. No pain means I’m eating well. Pain or stiffness means I let something creep into my diet, usually hidden sugar.

I’ve learned to check labels for that pesky sugar, appreciate the flavor of foods as my taste buds detoxified, and drink my tea plain, without a splash of milk. Today I wondered if I should celebrate my accomplishment with a “forbidden” treat but then decided why do that? I couldn’t even think of something that I wanted badly enough to do that to my body.

In the reintroduction phase, foods on the NO list are tried, one food group at a time, for one day. Then the food is not consumed for two days. The idea is to feel with the body what the reaction is to eating the food again, and then avoiding it for a couple of days and checking in with the body again. Today, I reintroduced non-gluten grains. I’ll check for pain and joint stiffness tomorrow, or digestive issues, and then see how I feel after two days of not eating those foods. Again, so easy. Any food group that brings pain, stiffness, indigestion or bloating, goes back on the NO list. Any food that does not create inflammation can remain on the YES list and be eaten in moderation. Sugar is the exception. It is toxic to me. I already know that. I may occasionally have a small piece of birthday cake or a small ice cream cone, but again, I may not want to trade my health for that small, quickly eaten treat.

For that is the real benefit that I am receiving from eating this way….health….wellness. Last August, limping in Scotland with a sore, stiff leg due to an inflamed sciatic nerve, I learned an important truth for myself: to appreciate my body and all that it does for me, in spite of the way I nourish it and feed it. Even when it is in pain, it does the very best that it can for me. I’d never water down the gasoline for my car and then complain about the way the car chugged and choked along. I’d know the poor quality of fuel was impeding the performance of the car. And yet, I’ve done that very thing to my body, giving it poor quality food and nourishment and then complained when it struggled along. I am so grateful that this whole food way of eating keeps showing up in my life. To show the highest level of appreciation for my marvelous body, I want to give it the very best nourishment that I can. I’m on board for another 30 days…and another….and another….as this way of fueling my body brings optimal health. I will Keep Calm…and Whole30 On!

finished the whole 30 keep calm

Journey 84: Tolkien Reading Day

Tolkien Reading Day

Today, March 25, is celebrated each year by the Tolkien Society, as a day set aside to honor JRR Tolkien’s life and work by reading passages from his books. The Society began this practice in 2003. March 25th was chosen because in the Middle Earth history, that date marks the downfall of Sauron with the destruction of the one ring.

Somehow, this special day has escaped my notice, until this year. I was delighted to discover the celebration last week and looked forward to spending time reading in one of my Tolkien books. I had originally intended to read in the Silmarillion, a collection of stories that tells the history of Middle Earth before the time depicted in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I realized late this afternoon that each year has a different theme, for Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Friendship.

Í chose to read instead from The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, near the end of the book. The chapter I chose is titled Many Partings which tells of the breaking of the Fellowship. Cozy inside while storms moved through the area, a cup of hot tea nearby, I enjoyed my soulful journey back to Middle Earth.

In the final Lord of the Rings movie, we last see the Fellowship together at Minas Tirith, the White City, shortly after Aragorn has been crowned king. The next scene we see is one of the Hobbits returning to the Shire, riding in as princes, grown and changed from the Hobbits who excitedly began their adventure together 13 months before.

In the book, there are several chapters between those two scenes. In Many Partings the Fellowship leaves Minas Tirith as a “great and fair company.” Queen Arwen accompanies her King and husband. Legolas and Gimli continue to ride together on their horse. Eomer bears home the body of his uncle, King Theoden, who fell in battle. Eowyn and her betrothed, Faramir are part of the company. As is Elrond and his sons, and Galadriel and her husband, Celeborn. The Hobbit friends ride their ponies. And Gandalf, as always, oversees the whole group. These are the key characters from the story, from the Fellowship, minus Boromir, who fell protecting the Hobbits before the Fellowship broke into three groups.

They have long journeyed together, and for a short time, they continue to. Back in Rohan, King Theoden is laid to rest, in a great and honoring ceremony. Eomer is crowned king and his sister Eowyn and Faramir announce their upcoming marriage. It is a very touching moment when Eowyn looks into Aragorn’s eyes and  says, “Wish me joy, my liege-lord and healer.” With such grace, he replies, “I have wished thee joy ever since I first saw thee. It heals my heart to see thee now in bliss.” Arwen remains in Gondor, to await her husband’s return. She withdraws into the hills to speak words of love and sorrow to her father, Elrond, whom she will not see again. Choosing to be mortal, she gives Frodo the gift of passing into the West, when the time comes.

The first good-byes, the first parting, and the rest of the party continue on. Stopping by Isengard, the group checks on Tree Beard, an ancient Ent. Merry and Pippen especially are sad at this good-bye, as they spent much time with this strange fellow who looks like a tree. Legolas and Gimli depart, set on an adventure of their own, their friendship entering into legend.  A short distance beyond, Aragorn takes his leave of the Fellowship. This was a difficult parting, as Aragorn had been the guide for the Hobbits through many perils, and their friend.

Near Rivendell the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn turned toward their home, knowing that their time in Middle Earth is drawing to a close. At last arriving in Rivendell, the Hobbits rest for a time, reunited with a very elderly Bilbo, who sleeps and wakes to eat and visit for short periods of time. Frodo fears he will not see his uncle again, but Elrond assures him that in about a year, he will personally escort Bilbo to the Shire.

The chapter ends with only Gandalf and the Hobbits continuing on, bound for the Shire. There was great sadness in the many partings, and yet what amazing, life changing adventures the Fellowship shared.

I was very thoughtful as I read this chapter. I am so very grateful for all who have traveled with me on my own journey, serving as my friends, as my guides, as my companions. Some I have already said good-bye to. Some still walk alongside me. There are those who were destined to walk with me for a short time and now, no longer do. I am thankful for those traveling companions as they challenged me, made me grow, or offered encouragement along the sometimes difficult path. I am who I am, because of the journey, and because of those who have walked with me and those who continue to. I know there will be more partings. It is the nature of the journey. The nature of life. I want to hold all in gratitude.

In honor of this great author, and the friendship theme, I offer these words of Tolkien, as spoken by Elrond as the Fellowship departed from Rivendell the first time:

“You will meet many foes, some open, and some disguised; and you may find friends along your way when you least look for it.”

Tolkien Reading Day Frodo

Journey 83: Continual Joy

journey of joy

My journey today was a string of events that didn’t necessarily have any connection to each other. I found it difficult to narrow in on one aspect of this Tuesday, and stepping back, saw that my journey today might resemble the humorous Family Circus cartoon, where one of the kids’ journey throughout the day is depicted by a wandering path of dashes. Individually, each small journey was a dellight. Combined, the day’s journey was raised to a level of deep and abiding joy.

I started the journey with lunches with Joey and Oliver, at their school. This was my second visit and I knew the routine….where to check in, where the cafeteria was, where to sit to best watch for the boys. I enjoy these 30 minute breaks with the grandkids. It is a time of chatting and laughing as they eat, surrounded by a constantly shifting sea of kids. I find the setting cheerful and the experience entertaining as the school principal, wearing a mic, keeps up a steady interaction with the kids. Today was song day and I heard the song “Happy” twice and “Brave” once. The children sang with gusto. I was intrigued by “Brave”, sung by Sara Bareilles, and listened to the video on YouTube several times throughout the afternoon. What a great song about speaking up and bravely living your truth. Joey and Oliver were wonderful conversationalists and lunch companions and I left with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

journey of joy Oliver

journey of joy Joey

A quick impromptu lunch followed for me, which a friend ended up paying for. Both were unexpected and enjoyed. Next stop, the purchase of the DVD The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, released today and highly anticipated by me. I look forward to a thoughtful viewing of this film at home, where I can stop and rewind any scene that calls to me, and freely express the emotion that wells up during this final Middle Earth film.

journey of joy The Hobbit

Picking up granddaughter Aubrey from school, we met grandson Dayan at his home. With snacks nearby and a Dr. Who episode playing on the TV, we spread out art materials and began work on mail art postcards that will travel to Austria. The theme of this project is “turquoise”. Dayan had the brilliant idea of photocopying monuments and buildings in cities around the world, with the colors turquoise and blue predominant in the pics, and using those to cut out the letters to spell turquoise. For example, the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, Scotland became the E. This is a perfect fit for his interests. My piece will reflect my journey this year and incorporate the open door symbol. I’ll use turquoise and black paint and a variety of textures. Aubrey decided to make a postcard too, entering into the experience wholeheartedly, creating a sea of turquoise and adding the word turquoise above it. She was introduced to Dr. Who this afternoon and loved the episode that we watched, titled The Girl in the Fireplace. I enjoyed the time spent with my eldest and youngest grandchildren, appreciative of how patient Dayan is with his little cousin as he explains things to her. He showed her where various countries are located on his big wall map in his room. Aubrey is a quick learner and asked him great questions.

Journey of joy mail art

To cap off the day, I met with my book club group. I so appreciate this enlightened and authentic group of women. Each of us is on a journey of growth, not seeking answers so much as seeking life and the freedom to enjoy it deeply. We are reading our way through The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. The chapters on Who Are You?, The Lucid Self and Infinite Energy sparked interesting and soulful conversations and honest and open sharing of our unfolding journeys.

Interspersed with the highlights of the day were calls and texts with family, clients, lenders and friends. It was an ordinary day, made extraordinary by the connections with others and the living of life. Awareness brings gratitude for each moment and the desire to fully engage in that moment, offering out of a full heart, receiving graciously from the bounty and goodness of others. It was an incredibly joyful day, measured in steps and smiles, heartbeats and hugs….my favorite kind of day.

journey of joy untethered soul

Journey 82: Whiplash


Tonight I watched movie number four, of the eight nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I had seen enough clips of this film to feel edgy about viewing the movie. I was thrilled that J.K. Simmons, a fine character actor, was nominated for best supporting actor. However, could I endure watching a film that depicts a man who bullies his students into giving their best…or breaks them in the process?

Whiplash stars Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, and Paul Reiser. It was directed by Damien Chazelle. This drama carries an R rating, for strong language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. It was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons. It won in the last three categories.

Andrew (Teller) is a student at Shaffer Conservatory of Music, the finest school of music in the nation. His passion is to be a great jazz drummer like Buddy Rich. Being a first year student, he barely has the chance to prove himself to his jazz instructor, much less catch the attention of Terence Fletcher (Simmons), who has the best, most competitive jazz band in the school. Only the most talented play in Fletcher’s rehearsal room.

Andrew spends long hours practicing on his drums, avoiding social interactions and dating. His only consistent connection is meeting his father (Reiser) once a week at the movie theater to catch a film…and to flirt mildly with the pretty girl at the concession counter. He eventually asks the pretty girl out. But then he gets noticed by Fletcher, and Andrew’s world narrows down to intense drumming sessions, listening to great jazz drummers, and trying to earn Fletcher’s approval. Fletcher is more than a tough instructor and conductor. He is brutal in his treatment of his students, who stare silently at the floor whenever he enters the practice room, fearful of receiving his attention and his wrath. If too many mistakes are made, the offending band member is dismissed.

Andrew’s desire to be one of the greats overrides his dislike and fear of Fletcher. When Fletcher pushes him, he tries harder, practicing until his hands bleed. At last Fletcher makes him the core, or main, drummer, and Andrew heads to his first competition. Delays in transportation make Andrew late arriving at the performance center, where he discovers Fletcher has replaced him. When Andrew verbally fights for his right to play the drums during the competition, Fletcher allows it….except Andrew has left his drumsticks at the rental car facility. Rushing against the clock to make it back in time to take the stage, Andrew drives carelessly and is involved in a horrific car accident, just two blocks from his destination.

Undeterred, he stumbles to the center and onto the stage with moments to spare. Bleeding, injured, probably concussed, he begins the set, but falters, fumbles, drops a stick. Fletcher casts him out. It’s over. In pain and in a rage, Andrew attacks Fletcher physically before he is dragged away.

The once promising drummer loses his sense of purpose, his drive. He is dismissed from school for attacking Fletcher. He moves back home and packs away his drum set. Andrew is approached to testify, anonymously, against Fletcher after one of his former students commits suicide. Andrew agrees, thinking he will never see his old instructor, his tormentor, again. But fate would intervene. In a downtown club, Andrew watches Fletcher perform, with grace and passion, with a jazz ensemble. After the performance, before Andrew can get out of the building, Fletcher calls out to him and they have a drink together. Fletcher confesses he was fired. Andrew plays dumb. Fletcher tells his former student that he knows no one understands what he does. He pushes people beyond what they think they are capable of, to bring them into greatness. He says the two most horrible words in the English language are “Good job”. No great jazz player became who he was by doing a good job. He learned to move beyond his perceived limits. Andrew questions whether there is a line that gets crossed, where the pushing can instead discourage someone from becoming great. Fletcher counters that the great won’t get discouraged. He will keep going.

As the two part company, Fletcher invites Andrew to perform with a jazz band that he is conducting. The songs are the same ones he used at the conservatory. Important musical people will be in the audience, so it is an opportunity to get noticed. He needs a better drummer. Fear flashes across Andrew’s face, but that old desire for greatness arises as well. After a weekend of considering, and dragging his drums out again, Andrew shows up to perform. As the set begins, Fletcher turns to Andrew and says, quietly, “I know it was you.” And then calls up a song that Andrew doesn’t know and doesn’t have the music for. The band begins the musical number and Andrew fumbles, struggling to join in, throwing off the other band members. Fletcher has his revenge, humiliating Andrew in front of the crowd, in front of his father who showed up to watch his son. As the song at last comes to an end, Fletcher takes pleasure in sending Andrew away once again, telling him, “I guess you don’t have it.”

Andrew’s dad meets his stricken son backstage, urging him to come home. And then, something shifts in Andrew. Head held high, he returns to the stage and the drums, just as Fletcher is announcing the next musical piece. Andrew begins a drum solo. A startled Fletcher and the just as surprised band members look to Andrew in confusion. “I’ll cue you,” he instructs the band. They move into the piece Caravan, which features the drums, and which was always beyond Andrew’s ability to perform. That shift continues in Andrew….and suddenly, pushed up against his limits, taking himself to the edge, he does it. He breaks through. He gives an amazing performance that pulls every ounce of strength and talent from him. Hands bloody, soaked with sweat, exhausted, he smiles at his teacher. Fletcher acknowledges the young man’s accomplishment with a beautiful smile.

This was, indeed, a very difficult movie for me to watch, as the way I encourage others is so very different from the methods Fletcher uses to inspire greatness. I couldn’t bear for a child or grandchild of mine to be treated with such harshness, such spirit breaking meanness. Was it worth it, to Andrew, to be pushed so hard? Those who want to be good, who want to enjoy what they do, become casualties under such an assault on their hearts and souls, useless to a man like Fletcher who winnows out the good to preserve the very best. To one who wants to be great, who has that as the ultimate goal in life, the harshness might ultimately prove worthy, but at what cost to his soul?

The last ten minutes of this film were almost unbearable. I wanted to look away….I couldn’t. I was afraid Andrew’s heart would burst from his frenzied drumming…it didn’t. And then the break through….filmed so well that I knew the moment he did it, I saw the change come over him ….and I could not look away. Andrew’s brilliance exploded through his pain, sweat and blood. He was destined for greatness, and he knew it. For the first and only time during this movie, I smiled. I teared up. I said, “Wow” very softly. Would I ever watch this movie again? No. However, I might watch the last ten minutes again before I return the DVD. And ponder the breaking of limits.

Journey 81: Sunday Peace

sunday peace door

On this gorgeous spring day peace, at a soul level, was the theme. I spent part of the day with my mom and sisters, chatting and visiting a local flea market. I just browsed today, not finding anything that caught my heart strongly.

Returning home mid-afternoon, I discovered Greg had been at work on the green door that slides open, allowing passage into the backyard garden. I call this garden gate my Peace Door, for my desire is that all who enter through that door will experience peace and joy as they are surrounded by beauty and whimsy. Greg had a sign made that he attached to the door today: “Peace to all who enter in”. I am so thrilled! I have looked and looked for such a sign to greet visitors to the garden. He had the sign custom made to fit over one of the frosted window panes. It looks amazing and peace floods my soul just reading the blessing.

sunday peace sign

The warm temps and bright sunshine called to me and I remained in the garden, pulling a few early weeds, tidying up beds, inspecting for signs of awakening. I found them. To my delight, signs of life were everywhere in the garden. Green shoots are pushing up through the ground. The ornamental grasses have slender bright green stalks appearing. And the young lemon balm leaves released their citrusy scent as my fingers brushed against them.

sunday peace day lilies

sunday peace german chives

I recently purchased anti-gravity chairs for the brick patio. Last year I searched for them as end of the season clearance items, but orange chairs were all I could find. I passed. Last week, I found the chairs in a light brown color and for $20 less than the clearance chairs! I have been anticipating reclining back in the garden, soaking up sunshine. This afternoon, I did just that. With a garden hat shielding my eyes, I sank back with a deep sigh of contentment, eyes closed, listening to the twittering of birds. The drone of city traffic slipped further and further away and peace settled over me like a bright billowy cloud. What bliss. I foresee many happy and relaxing moments ahead, enjoying the comfort of those chairs.

sunday peace anti gravity chair

sunday peace anti gravity chair 2

I am grateful for Greg’s gift. He not only had a sign made that expressed my desire for the backyard garden, my own Rivendell, but he also spent his afternoon installing it and then checking and maintaining my Peace Door. There truly is a peace that passes all understanding. I choose to experience that peace, no matter what else is going on. I choose to offer that peace, to all I encounter and especially to those who spend time in my garden. “Don’t let people pull you into their storms. Pull them into your peace.” says Kimberly Jones. Join me in my peace. Join me in my garden.

sunday peace