I look forward every spring to the first official planting day in the garden. The date varies from year to year, depending on the weather, but it always arrives, exactly on time. Warm temps and sunshine yesterday signaled that this was it…time to don gardening clothes and gather empty pots and hand tools.
Because tomorrow the forecast calls for wintry weather again, I didn’t plant in the ground. But it was the perfect opportunity to weed, check on perennials that are pushing up through the ground, and tuck some annuals into clay pots. Greg at last got to finish burning the decorative grass stalks left over after trimming back the tall plants weeks ago. The “haystack” is gone.
After tidying up beds and pulling early weeds, I busied myself with what has become a yearly spring tradition. I planted flowers in the clay pots that fill Annie’s red wooden box on the front porch. This activity shifts me fully into spring mode, and connects me spiritually with my dear Aunt Annie, who passed away three years ago. This box was hers. I was allowed to bring it home as a keepsake. It graces my front porch.
I own a good pair of gardening gloves. They stayed on my hands for about five minutes then off they came. I love getting my hands in the dirt and physically connecting with the earth and the plants as I handle them. Although the gloves protect my hands when I’m working with decorative grasses or pulling weeds, I don’t like the barrier they create between me and living plants. Even the dirt is rich with life and I love using my hands instead of a trowel when I am planting.
Like so many other activities in my life, gardening is meditative for me. Planting, pruning, weeding and watering are good for the garden and good for me as well. Being busy in the garden gives me time to sort through things in my mind, heart and soul all while soaking up healing sunlight and breathing in fresh air. It is restorative to me, at a deep level.
And, gardening is rewarding to me. A little work transforms empty spaces or overgrown beds, bringing life and color where there was barrenness or dullness. I am rewarded as well, infusing my life with vibrancy.
Annie’s box turned out great. It looks a bit different every year, depending on the annuals I use. This year the pots nestled with the box are full of pink and white begonias. I lit candles near the box last night, as a nearly full moon rose to the east. The flickering white lights welcomed spring, and honored my aunt and my dad, whose death anniversary was yesterday. Beauty and peace filled my soul.
Today is the 8th anniversary of my father’s death. Dad has not only been on my mind today…I’ve been thinking of him all month. Memories have floated up into my consciousness. Funny or sad stories have been recalled. I miss my dad. I think of him every day.
The evening that I got a phone call, telling me that Dad was in the hospital and doctors had found a mass on his pancreas, I knew time was running out for him. He fought valiantly for two years and in the end the cancer won. However, I learned so much from my dad during that time, about living, about dying, about love.
I wasn’t sure that I was going to write this particular post tonight. The idea for it came to me this morning and stayed with me throughout the day, flickering in and out of my awareness. This story is on the fringe of what people can believe, or accept. However as I prepared to write, I did a simple thing. I asked my dad, Is this the post to write tonight? Should I share these stories? The unmistakable answer was Yes. And Dad even gave me the title for this piece.
The truth is, in my experience, death is not the end. It is a transition and the soul continues on. These beliefs are more than teachings or suppositions for me…they are my reality. I have been visited all my life by loved ones who have passed on. And so, these are some of my favorite stories about my dad, after he made that transition. His love endures.
My first experience with my father in spirit happened the day he died. I had seen my dad two days before, with Greg and our children and grandchildren accompanying me. My sisters and I had made plans to spend the night with our dad and stepmom on Wednesday, to spend some time with him. But on the Sunday before, I took my family to see Dad. As I sat, holding his hand and talking quietly, I knew he only had a few days left. Not weeks, as his hospice care givers said. Days.
On Tuesday, I awoke feeling extremely restless. I skipped a sales meeting at the office and paced from room to room at home. When my younger sister called, to say Dad was slipping away and might not last through the night, I was not surprised. I hurriedly packed a bag, and left for Tulsa…an hour and a half drive away.
My niece and sister sent updates via text, which were increasingly urgent. I was speeding down I 44, clicking off the miles. Twenty minutes away from my dad’s house, I suddenly felt very strange. Energy pressed against my chest and then passed through, leaving me slightly disoriented and feeling disconnected from my body. I glanced at the clock in the car, noting the time. And then very clearly I heard my father’s voice. Sissy, it’s okay. Slow down.
I knew what had happened. My dad had just slipped into the spirit world. He always called me Sissy. And he was telling me there was no need to drive so fast. I felt numb and yet comforted too, to feel his presence so strongly. When I arrived at my dad’s, my sister Debbie met me in the yard, crying. Dad had died, at the time I had my experience.
Another visit from my dad occurred a short time later, when my sisters and I spent the night at his house, while our stepmom traveled out of state. I could share many interesting details from that night…unusual noises and odd behavior from my dad’s dog…but the sense that Dad was present came after we retired for the night. My sisters shared a bedroom while I slept alone. I lay in bed, eyes closed but awake, thinking about my dad. I heard a pop and then a sizzling sound, like the crackle of electricity. Opening my eyes I saw a pillar of bright white light next to the bed. The sizzling sound was emanating from the light. I felt curiosity rather than fear. In a few moments the light and sound faded away. I felt like my dad had been standing there, watching me, sending me love. The next morning I learned one of my sisters had seen a white light in her room as well.
On the first birthday that I celebrated after my dad died, I keenly felt his absence. My dad always called each of his children on his or her birthday. I knew I would not be receiving a call this year. Lying awake, after midnight, thinking about that call that was not going to come, I heard a loud crash…inside my closet! I was startled by that, and chose not to investigate in the dark of night. However, the next morning I remembered the noise and carefully opened the closet door. On the floor within the closet was a pile of items, things that had belonged to my dad that I had brought home after his death. I had placed those things high up on a shelf and they were the only things that fell. I smiled. It appeared my dad had “called” on my birthday after all!
Likewise, I was missing my dad very much on the first Father’s Day without him. I strongly associate motorcycles with Dad, as he owned a variety of them throughout his life. Driving home that Sunday afternoon, I asked my dad to send motorcycles by as a sign from him that he was near. I was almost home, so I figured Dad wouldn’t have time to set up this form of saying hello. I stopped at a red light, at an intersection half a block from home, and watched in amazement as motorcycles pulled up on each street in the intersection…across from me, to the right and to the left.
As I grinned, I heard another motorcycle approaching. A yellow one pulled up right next to me. This one made me cry. A young girl, about 10 years old, rode behind the driver, a man whom I assumed to be her father. I rode behind my dad often, as a child, as a teen, and a few times as an adult. Surrounded by motorcycles I felt such love, such gratitude for my father, mingled with grief and sadness.
I have had many visits from my dad since his death. I’ve even felt protected by him. When the 2011 tornado churned through my neighborhood, destroying it, Greg and I crouched in a closet, listening as windows broke all over the house and debris thudded against the walls. I felt like we might die as the intensity of the storm increased and the house began to lift from its foundation. An incredible peace overcame us. I sensed loved ones in spirit near.
Shortly after the tornado, I dreamed about that day. In the dream my dad appeared, pushing us into the closet and helping me to close the door, just as a 2×4 piece of lumber came crashing through the window. Dad stood guard outside the door. When I woke from that dream I recalled that a 2×4 did indeed come through the window just as I pulled the closet door closed. I have no doubts that my dad was standing guard as the storm raged.
Dad has helped me find things, prompted me to take particular actions, makes my chin tingle with energy when he’s near…like right now. I miss his hugs and kisses. I miss calling him on the phone and hearing his laughter. And yet, I know he visits often. I talk to him and then wait for his response, which comes by way of signs, or through songs, or as a tingle of energy that brushes against my hair. Occasionally I hear his voice.
I know that stories like these are difficult for some to believe. But if they bring hope and peace and comfort to others who have lost a loved one, then I don’t mind the naysayers. Our loved ones in spirit are closer than we think. I trust my own experiences. And I trust my dad. And I trust his enduring love for me and my siblings, my stepmom and our families. I love you Dad. Thank you for continuing to be a part of my life.
This afternoon, during a break in real estate continuing education classes, I checked my phone for messages. Greg had sent me a text with an accompanying photo.
Our breaks between sessions are brief, and I didn’t have time to follow up on this news, but I was so excited! I have long wished for just such a theater to open in Joplin, one that features indie films, foreign language movies and cutting edge productions that never make it to a traditional theater.
I recently discovered a great little indie theater in Springfield, Missouri. I enjoyed watching the artsy film, Love, Vincent there. However, Springfield is an hour away. To attend a viewing there requires planning and a chunk of free time. The opening of an indie theater here in my city of Joplin was incredible news to me.
After classes concluded today, satisfying the state’s requirement for 12 hours of continuing ed, I pulled up info about this new theater. Bookhouse Cinema, located at 715 E. Broadway, in Joplin, is the realization of a dream. Owners Holly and Bradley Crane fell in love, in part, because of their shared love of movies. Ten years into their marriage, and many movies later, Holly and Bradley went from thinking it would be cool to have an indie film theater in Joplin, to birthing their idea into reality when they found the perfect building for such a project.
The newly outfitted cinema features reclining theater seats in a room that holds 40+ people, a digital projection system and a high quality sound system. The single screen comes from the former Cinema 6, a second-run theater in Joplin that closed in 2008.
Photo, from Bookhouse Cinema Facebook page, taken by Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe.
There is a lounge area, with a bar and tables and chairs, where people can meet before and after watching a movie. Snacks will be offered in this area. The Cranes intend to have the cinema open by next month and they look forward to offering Joplin theater goers a unique movie experience.
When this cinema opens, I will be one of those who attends frequently. I am full of anticipation. And I appreciate the opportunity to see fresh new films that typically would not play in Joplin.
I absolutely love that something I have hoped for, in this area, is almost a reality. Now, what about a cute little tea house in Joplin, that features a variety of hot teas and finger foods, including plant based options? I believe anything is possible!
Photo, from Bookhouse Cinema Facebook page, taken by Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a text message from my granddaughter, Aubrey. It read:
My heart ached a little. Although my grandchildren are at the ages where Toys R Us is no longer their primary destination when we shop, that huge toy store holds many precious memories that represent hours of fun.
At that time, the company was still struggling to survive. The Joplin store was not on the close list. I shared that fact with Aubrey. But I knew and she knew that the future was uncertain for the toy store.
When the news broke that final attempts to save the company had failed, I felt like I needed to let this bright girl know. Her response was immediate:
When Aubrey needed a pick up from school today, I knew how we would spend our time together. My granddaughter wanted to say good bye to Toys R Us.
As we arrived in the parking lot, Aubrey commented, “This store is my childhood!” Right she is. She has been visiting Toys R Us since babyhood. As a toddler, I couldn’t drive anywhere near the store without her begging to go in and “just look”.
She knew she didn’t get a toy every time we visited. That didn’t diminish her joy. Aubrey truly did enjoy walking up and down the aisles, examining toys that drew her attention, holding them and studying them. It was in Toys R Us that I first noticed this sensitive child using a technique that author Marie Kondo describes in her bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie suggests holding an item and asking, “Does this bring me joy?” If it does, the item is kept.
I would watch as Aubrey held a toy. “This doesn’t ring my bell” she would declare as she set the toy back on the shelf. If the item did ring her bell, I took a photo of it, for future possible purchase for a special event such as her birthday.
Today we did as we have always done. I let her take the lead and I followed her, watching as she wandered slowly through this familiar place, listening to her chatter. Aubrey was a bit sad, which made me sad for her. She’s reached an age, as have all my grandchildren, where impermanence is realized. Things can change. What once was fades away or closes its doors.
She talked about memories and her mood lightened as we laughed about past experiences. Aubrey loved to get a head-start on her birthday, picking out toys months before the big day. She shopped here for her brothers and her cousins, and picked out Star Wars collectibles for Christmases past, for her dad.
We ended up at the back of the store. Although she is almost too tall to fit now, Aubrey likes to sit in the battery operated cars located on the back wall. She was thoughtful as she walked along the row of pint sized cars, remembering. She selected a firetruck to climb into and sat for a short time, lost in thought.
I allowed her to pick out a toy, for old times sake. With most of the items marked down 30%, there were plenty of bargains. In her typical fashion she went through a selection process. She no longer comments on each toy by saying whether or not it rings her bell. Nevertheless she is still looking for the joy it gives her…or doesn’t give her. Aubrey made her choice based on how the toy made her feel.
Suddenly, she was ready to go. I had not put any time limits on our visit. I left that up to her. We took our purchase to the front registers. Aubrey engaged our check out person in conversation, telling the young man that this was her childhood store and she was sad to see it close. He sympathized and remarked that he was sad too. He shared with us that there is the tiniest of chances that the chain will be bought. I don’t think Aubrey put much hope in his statements but she was polite as she listened to him.
As we left the store, we carried out one final Toys R Us tradition. I dug quarters out of my purse so Aubrey could buy a trinket from one of the vending machines. It’s something I’ve always done with the grandkids. We had to stop on our way out today too.
Over a quick dinner before I took her home, Aubrey and I talked…about the store closing and anything else that came to her mind. She’s a wise child, an old soul, knowledgeable beyond her years with strong intuitive and empathetic abilities. She may get to visit Toys R Us again before the doors close for the last time. But if she doesn’t, she is satisfied with today’s memory walk. She is sad, and yet she knows life goes on and that change is part of the journey.
This girl has been a Toys R Us kid. The store has been a constant in her life, and an important part of her childhood. There is sadness in her, mixed with nostalgia. And yet, at age nine, she doesn’t really consider herself a child anymore. In her mind, she’s almost ten, and that’s almost a teenager. Her reasoning makes me smile, and brings a tear to my eye.
I love Redbud trees! As one of the first trees to awake from winter’s deep sleep, their bright violet pink flowers signal that the seasons are changing. They are full of the promises of warmer days ahead, abundant sunshine, and rebirth.
I have two Redbuds in my front yard. One is young, a replacement for the old Redbud tree that was uprooted during the 2011 tornado that ripped through Joplin. The other Redbud survived the tornado, but not without injuries that resulted in twisted and cracked limbs, loss of bark and a thinning of the leaves in her glorious crown. I am relieved when this courageous tree buds each spring.
Did you know that, like the Dogwood Tree, the Redbud has a legend associated with it?
According to the ancient story, the Mediterranean Redbud was once a tall, stately tree with white flowers that appeared each spring. Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, chose a Redbud to hang himself from, ending his life. The legend goes that the Redbud felt such shame over what was done, that its white flowers blushed pink, and it became a small tree with crooked branches that could not bear, ever again, the weight of someone hanging from it.
I came home this afternoon, after spending time with my grandson Dayan, who is in town, briefly, on spring break. We talked about my Redbud today, and how amazing her survival was during the violent storm. So I was thinking of the tree as I arrived home. In spite of a steady downpour of rain, I moved to stand beside Redbud. This tree bears its scars, without shame. She is beautiful, even with her twisted limbs.
As I patted a rough branch, I noticed the trunk and limbs were thickly covered with patches of green and gray. Under overcast skies, the damp lichen appeared to glow.
Concerned, I did some research. Lichen is not a moss. It is a composed of two or more different organisms that coexist in a symbiotic relationship. The organisms are a fungus, green algae and a bacterium. The fungus provides support, pulling moisture and minerals from the air, and the algae and/or bacterium make the food by way of photosynthesis. Tree bark is not a food source. It is simply the lichen’s resting place. Lichen grows on many types of surfaces, including slow growing trees.
It’s not necessarily bad that Redbud has lichen covering it. However, it can be a sign that the tree is in distress. Because lichen needs adequate sunlight to survive, it appears on trees that are losing leaves, like my tree. And if she continues to lose leaves, my Redbud will not survive. It is possible that the lichen took up residence on this tree during the winter, when the tree was bare. My other Redbud does not have lichen though.
What story is Redbud telling now? I will watch and see. I circled the tree today and looked for other signs of failing health. There seems to be fewer pink buds every year, since the tornado, but it’s too soon to tell if the thinning of her crown is continuing.
My favorite picture with Redbud was taken last May, when I climbed up into her branches. That feat represented my improving health. I went from walking painfully with a cane, to being cane and pain free and able to climb. The tree supported me that day, sheltered me in her leafy arms. I love this tree. And whatever happens to Redbud, I will not forget what this tree withstood and what she represented to me. I’ll collect seeds from Redbud this year and save them for the day when she is no more. A new tree will spring up and take her place…and Redbud’s story will continue.
I have always loved movie soundtracks. The music and songs transport me back into a film I have enjoyed. I can see again, in my mind’s eye, the scenes unfolding as the music plays.
I have been captivated and inspired by a recent soundtrack from The Greatest Showman. One of its songs, This is Me, is my song for 2018. The truth is, I love every song on that lively soundtrack. Each one brings to mind the corresponding scenes from the film…and I can personally relate to the lyrics.
I realized a few days ago, as I was driving and listening to The Greatest Showman for the 50th time, that this soundtrack could actually be my soundtrack. The songs accurately portray my own life journey. I thought it would be fun to tell my story, through The Greatest Showman song lyrics.
I’ll share the song title, and the lyrics from that piece that I relate to, and then a few explanatory sentences to tie it all together.
A Million Dreams
I close my eyes and I can see the world that’s waiting up for me, that I call my own. Through the dark, through the door, through where no one’s been before, but it feels like home. Because every night I lie in bed, the brightest colors fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake. I think of what the world could be, a vision of the one I see. A million dreams is all it’s gonna to take. A million dreams for the world we’re gonna to make.
This song captures my childhood well. I’ve had big, vivid dreams since I was a toddler. And I literally see colors when I close my eyes. I’ve come to make associations with those colors. For me they are a form of receiving info. When I felt afraid as a child, I created worlds in my imagination to escape into. Far from just childish make believe, these other realities taught me to problem solve and live as the person I was becoming.
You can say, you can say it all sounds crazy. You can say, you can say I’ve lost my mind. I don’t care, I don’t care so call me crazy. I can live in a world that I design.
Me as a wee girl, with a HUGE imagination. This was my “don’t mess with me” look.
Sun is up and the color’s blinding, take the world and redefine it. Leave behind your narrow mind. You’ll never be the same. Come alive, come alive, go and light your light, let it burn so bright. Reaching up to the sky,and it’s open wide. You’re electrified.
As I entered my late teens, I began to get a better sense of who I was becoming. Fear still overshadowed my life, but I was awakening to the idea of redefining my perceptions of the world. I also knew, instinctively, that it was possible to leave behind the fearfulness that had held me captive and that my life, truly would not be the same. I feel such strong emotions around the words Come alive, come alive, go and light your light, let it burn so bright. The desire was within me to do so. It would take many more years before I fully accepted that Divine invitation.
The Other Side
But you would finally live a little, finally laugh a little. Just let me give you the freedom to dream and it’ll wake you up and cure your aching, take your walls and start ’em breaking. Now that’s a deal that seems worth taking, but I guess I’ll leave that up to you.
The rest of the songs from this amazing soundtrack capture my adult years. These lyrics from The Other Side represent the continual invitation that was offered to me, to live, to laugh, to live in freedom, freedom from my fears, freedom from the walled up prison I built for myself, to keep me safe. Of course I wasn’t really safe. I was closed down, my heart and emotions barricaded behind those thick walls. The invitation was always from the Divine, and it never stopped. I reached a point in my life where the hunger to learn more, embrace life more and find out what I could do outweighed a life of safety. My questions drew me cautiously forward. The walls began breaking.
I’m trying to hold my breath, let it stay this way, can’t let this moment end. You set off a dream with me. Getting louder now. Can you hear it echoing?
It was a scary process, leaving behind the box that I had put myself in. Life began to change rapidly for me. The Dream Giver had set me on a path that led I knew not where. And one of my first big lessons was, it’s a solitary journey, that starts within and moves outward. I had family and friends, but it was my time of growing, and discovering. I had to be okay with feeling alone, knowing that I could pour my heart out to El-le (my personal name for God). I learned as well that I had to love myself, care for myself, be my own best friend, because looking for love, attention, fame or wealth from anyone else would never feel like enough.
All the shine of a thousand spotlights, all the stars we steal from the night sky, will never be enough, never be enough. Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world but it’ll never be enough, never be enough.
This is Me
This is brave, this is proof, this is who I’m meant to be, this is me. Look out ’cause here I come. And I’m marching on to the beat I drum. I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me.
I’ve written about how much I appreciate this song. It is the core piece in the movie and it is my heart cry. This is where I currently am in my journey. Fear has been banished. I am free to be who I am meant to be. I am marching on to the beat I drum. This is me. This is ME! I’m not scared to be me and I’ve done much inner work to get here.
Rewrite the Stars
It’s up to you, and it’s up to me, no one can say what we get to be. So why don’t we rewrite the stars? Maybe the world could be ours tonight.
This is my invitation to others. Everyone has a different journey, and yet the invitation to live, to laugh, to embrace who they are, is offered to all. It’s up to you, as it was up to me, to accept the invite. We really do get to rewrite the stars and change our lives.
Some people long for a life that is simple and planned, tied with a ribbon. Some people won’t sail the sea ’cause they’re safer on land, to follow what’s written. But I’d follow you to the great unknown…
There’s nothing wrong with a simple life, unless it’s chosen out of fear. I remind myself often that I choose adventure over a careful life. I just recently have begun to travel more, something I’ve dreamed of since childhood. I am willing to follow El-le into the great unknown, rather than stay safely in a place of following someone else’s rules. And as the song says, choosing such a life can feel like walking a tightrope, but oh the view from that place!
We’re walking the tightrope never sure, never know how far we could fall. But it’s all an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view.
From Now On
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight, it starts tonight. Let this promise in me start, like an anthem in my heart, from now on, from now on. And we shall go back home, and we shall go back home, home again.
This song reminds me that I have made a promise, a commitment, to myself and to others, that this is me, this is my life, from now on. It is the anthem in my heart. The words about going back home make me think of Scotland, my ancestral home, and they remind me that earth is not my permanent home. I shall return someday to the Divine, from whence I came.
The Greatest Show
It’s everything you ever want. It’s everything you ever need. And it’s here right in front of you.
This is where you wanna be.
I moved the film’s opening song to the end, because it is done as a reprisal at the conclusion of the movie. It takes the main character full circle, from his dreams to the fulfillment of them.
I can say, with gratitude, that so many of my childhood dreams have become reality. In fact, I am living in a place that is beyond what I could imagine as a little girl. Life is beautiful. It’s everything I ever wanted. It’s everything I need, just as it is. It’s all right here in front of me. I am exactly where I need to be and want to be. The path stretches out ahead of me and disappears around a bend. I can’t see very far ahead. I don’t need to. I just have to keep walking, keep learning, keep listening to the Dream Giver’s voice, and enjoy the journey.
When I remembered this morning that today is Tolkien Reading Day, I knew just how to celebrate. I’ve enjoyed this unique holiday in the past, although it’s been a couple of years since I mindfully took part in the day.
Tolkien Reading Day is observed yearly, on March 25, the date in Middle Earth when the hobbits Frodo and Sam destroyed the One Ring. This special day was organized by the Tolkien Society, in 2003, to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of JRR Tolkien by reading favorite passages from his books.
Each year the society chooses a different theme. For 2018 the theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. That’s a theme I can wholeheartedly embrace! It fits right in with my hygge lifestyle.
The hobbit Bilbo Baggins, as portrayed by Martin Freeman in the 2012 film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I know hobbits. I have long been a fan of JRR Tolkien’s books, and then later the blockbuster films by Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy. Hobbits are gentle, peaceful folks, who love good food and drink, afternoon tea, gardening, and smoking their pipes. They celebrate a simple, joy filled life, and appreciate a comfortable chair beside a crackling fire, a good book in hand.
Home and hearth and a well stocked pantry are important to the wee people who live in hobbit holes that tunnel into the ground. Their homes are not full of dirt and worms and oozy smells though. Oh no. Hobbits create comfort and beauty in their homes by using natural materials, wood and stones primarily, and an abundance of candles, fireplaces and round doors and windows on the exterior earth walls.
It was a bit cool to garden today, so I planned an afternoon tea, in honor of Professor Tolkien and the hobbits. I took great care in setting up tea beside my reading chair in my studio. Because hobbits love nature and candlelight so, I carried in my blooming purple hyacinths and a plain white candle.
I prepared a cup of steaming hot herbal tea…nettle leaf today…and a batch of wild blueberry scones. This was attempt number four, in creating a gluten, dairy, egg and refined sugar free scone that tastes good! I believe I finally succeeded.
I don’t have a fireplace but I was quite pleased with my cozy corner in my creative studio. Bilbo and Frodo would be pleased, albeit concerned about the lack of a feast. My cup of tea and healthy scone were perfect for me. Sunlight filtered in through the wooden blinds, creating a cheery atmosphere.
In keeping with the theme, I chose to read the first chapter in The Hobbit, the book that began the adventures in Middle Earth. I had the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring playing quietly on my iPod. I loved that peaceful hour, reading, sipping tea, nibbling on a scone.
My cat Shy Boy sensed my quiet joy apparently. He settled in my lap, content to be held while I read about Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves. I felt nostalgia as the story began. These dear characters are so familiar to me.
JRR Tolkien has had a tremendous impact on my life through his stories. The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales…these stories are about transformation, redemption and becoming. I found myself within the stories of Middle Earth, and discovered more about who I am and about my own journey. I appreciated the opportunity today to revisit Middle Earth and pause in reflection for a while.
I always wanted to be elvish, like Arwen in The Lord of the Rings. She was beautiful, ethereal, magical and willing to sacrifice her immortality for the love of Aragorn. I think I am actually more like Bilbo. I love many of the same things that he does…gardens and tea time, coziness and good books, being in nature and celebrating with friends.
And like Bilbo, who preferred to explore the world by looking at maps while in his armchair, something awoke in me as it did in him. A great longing for adventure stirred. And life shifted to accommodate that desire.
“As they (the dwarves) sang, the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hand and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
And so he went on an adventure, that changed his life. And so have I.
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I spent hours in the car today, as Greg and I drove to pick up our grandson Dayan and bring him home for spring break. It is wonderful to have this college aged young man home for a few days. As we neared Joplin, I considered what to write about tonight. I realized I had not practiced my drawing for several months.
Last year, with Inspiration as my word and theme, my artistic side explored creating art in many mediums, including sketching. This year I have focused on written stories. But of course, stories can be told in many ways, through words, films, photography, vignettes, plays, music, songs…and drawings. In fact, an idea came to me last year, to tell a magical story through several sketches, something akin to cartoon panels. Cartooning is not one of my natural gifts, however, I knew I could learn. I found a fun book called The Manga Artist’s Workbook that has been perfect for me to work through.
I decided this evening I needed to get back into the lessons. After all, I have a story to tell.
Returning to my manga workbook, I remembered, with a slight pang of guilt, that I had skipped a section. When I finished with the section on drawing the teen girl’s head, in a variety of positions, I jumped over the next lessons…drawing the teen boy. I was in a hurry to move on and feel accomplished enough to create my own sketches that will tell my own story.
Tonight I saw this as an error. I’m playing by my rules. I can do what I want here. However, what I truly want is to gain expertise in this form of drawing, and storytelling. I can’t rush that. I will benefit from the additional practice that these lessons provide.
Here is my progress tonight, drawing the teen boy.
Beginning with the basic shapes for the head, I learned that males have a more angular jaw than females, a square chin and a thicker neck. The eyebrows are thicker as well, with less arch and while still large, the eyes of a manga teen boy are smaller than those of a manga teen girl.
A simple shadow creates a hint of a nose. The hair follows the contours of the head. And the mouth is indicated with a couple of lines.
And here he is, facing forward, a completed sketch of a manga teen boy. This lesson took me a few minutes to create. I sipped hot tea as I studied my work, feeling satisfied.
I am enjoying manga. Beyond the joy I receive from drawing, I am learning important lessons about body anatomy, placement and perspective. The sketches are drawn more quickly each time and with greater confidence.
I have four more lessons to complete, in this section on the teen boy’s head and face, and then I can move on to expressions, for both males and females. No more skipping around. I’m happy I backtracked and drew this manga boy. He looks happy as well.
You can order this fun workbook by clicking the link below.
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This is not the blog post I intended to write. However, after a long and very full day, and a double blog post day at that, 10:15 pm was not the optimal time to begin that post. Although fun and somewhat lighthearted, I quickly realized I needed a dedicated amount of time to pull off that idea.
Which brought to mind an assignment I completed in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, about the topic of time…and my thoughts about having more or less of it. Because this is the post I am writing, it is, after all, the piece I am supposed to write. My former idea, which I will flesh out this weekend, was intended to lead me here.
Ray Cummings wrote “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once.” That quote makes me smile, and yet people tend to feel anxious about time. Is there too much of it? Not enough to accomplish what we need to do? Is it dragging by or racing by?
It depends on where you are in the journey.
As a young adult, I thought I had all the time in the world to do what I wanted. Possibilities and time seemed endless.
However, shortly after passing the 50 year marker, what once seemed infinite began to appear very finite indeed. I had not done all I wanted to do. For the first time, I felt the sting of time slipping away. And…that was ten years ago! This exercise was, pardon the pun, very timely for me.
The task was to write quickly, without overthinking, answers to the following sentences.
If I had more time, I’d try….
1. Writing a different blog post. Okay, that one doesn’t count. It is highly accurate though!
If I had more time, I’d try…
1. Traveling far and wide
2. Writing full time
3. Creating deep, meaningful relationships
5. Writing a screenplay
If I had less time, I’d try…
1. Living part time in Scotland
2. Creating lasting beauty as a legacy
3. Having more adventures with my kids and grandkids
4. Doing only the things that are important to me and bring me joy
5. Writing a memoir
I found this to be an enlightening exercise. The “If I Had More Time” sentences evoked big, sweeping answers. Travel. Writing. New relationships. Acting. Writing a screenplay. Those possibilities excite me, help me to cast far reaching visions.
The “If I had Less Time” sentences brought a totally different response. They narrowed down my vision, focused it in tightly. Travel came down to visiting one country. Legacies came to mind. New relationships? No, I’d enjoy the ones I have and create lasting memories. Focus would tighten what I love doing. And I would record my life.
Both sets of sentences offered me powerful glimpses into myself. And neither set is the right one or wrong one. All information is valuable. It is too soon for me to be wrapping things up. And yet, it’s also good to be mindful that there is a finish line somewhere on this path I’m journeying down. Be mindful. Do what I love to do. Think big, dream big. Focus in. What will my legacy be?
My biggest aha came from insight offered by the author of It’sNever Too Late To Begin Again, Julia Cameron.
“Often, when we say it is ‘too late’, for us to begin something, what we are really saying is that we aren’t willing to be a beginner.”
I love that. Looking at my first list, I can see that instead of thinking it’s too late to try those five things, I might actually just be hesitant to learn what I need to learn, and do what I need to do, to make them reality. It can feel hard to become a beginner. Am I willing to become a beginner?
I am in the process of answering that question. What rises immediately from my heart, overriding my more practical and logical brain, is a whoop and a resounding yes! So be it…
“There are no secrets that time does not reveal.” Jean Racine
I saw a meme on Instagram this morning, that so captivated me and resonated within me that I have thought about the words all day. Whenever my mind tossed out the question, What story shall I tell today? the quote immediately moved again into my awareness.
Rabbi Baal Shem Tov wrote:
“Let me fall, if I must. The person I will become will catch me.”
Those are powerful words, framed in startling imagery. We don’t like to fall. I’ve read that an infant’s first, instinctive fear is of falling, so we have within us an inborn dread of tumbling, of going down.
Falling is also a metaphor for moving from a good place, physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually, vibrating with high frequency energy, to a low place, a darker place, where the energy is heavier and more dense.
Baal Shem Tov is speaking metaphorically. And we understand that. We have well known expressions that illustrate such a fall.
• I’ve hit rock bottom.
• How the mighty have fallen.
• Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
• Fall from favor.
• Fall from grace.
• Fall 7 times, get up 8.
We so dislike falling, which is often equated with failing, that we hope someone will catch us. Or, seeing someone we care about enter into a downward spiral, we attempt to catch them, buoy them, hold them up.
It is important to encourage each other and walk alongside. And yet, Baal Shem Tov suggests it can be crucial to allow ourselves to fall and to allow others to fall as well.
Here are my thoughts about that.
I can personally see the truth in his words. I’ve had two major falls in the last decade. One was a result of searching for myself, and figuring out who I was and what I was here to do. The other was when I reached a low point with my health. The last thing I wanted, as I figured things out, was for someone to sweep in and rescue me. I instinctively knew that it was time for me to take charge of my life and of my health. It was time for the person I was becoming to reveal herself.
This is what I have learned from falling, and catching myself.
I have to recognize, first of all, that I am falling. For me it is a huge energy shift. I feel the strong pull of emotional or physical gravity, taking me down. There is no shame in falling, anymore than there is in stumbling over a rock as we walk. It happens. It increases our awareness of our situation, if we realize we are spiraling down.
When I am lying on my back, after a great fall, there is no where to look but up, and then inward. Up toward the Divine, who is well aware of my exact location. And inward, to my core, to discover the strength that is waiting there for me to call upon it.
I have found such incredible life lessons, from the “pit of despair”. If I allow someone to pull me up, then I am more likely to fall again quickly, because I look to another for constant support. That is a wearying role for someone to fulfill. It’s also not a “pull myself up by my bootstraps” approach, in which I try to tough it out and suck it up. To fall and hit bottom gives me the opportunity to see what precipitated the fall. It allows me to deepen my conversations with the Divine. It necessitates much deeper conversations with myself, primarily through journaling and meditation.
This is when I catch glimpses of she-whom-I-am-becoming. That emerging person catches me, sets me on my feet again. As I learn and grow, she supports me, carrying me for a time, then she holds my hand as we climb out of the hole I am in. Together we journey onward and upward, as I grow stronger, until at last, I am her. I have become.
When I hit my lowest point health wise, this process looked like this. I was afraid. The medical community had given up on me, offering only drugs for my symptoms and telling me to learn to live with chronic pain. It will get worse, you will decline, doctors promised. At the bottom, where I had fallen to, I decided to take charge of my health. I caught a glimpse of what healthy me looked like, felt like. I asked for Divine guidance and received it. I found Anthony William. His words offered hope and healing. It was up to me, however, to do the work, to find my way through, to care for myself as I had never done before. The healthy woman I was becoming walked with me every step of the way. I drew strength and inspiration from her. I became her.
It is difficult to watch someone else fall. It is even more difficult to not rescue him or her. Thinking about Baal Shem Tov’s words today, I realized how important it is to let the fall happen. If I help another too much, she will either become dependent on me or she will continually teeter and need rescuing.
I must hold to faith and trust she will find the one she is becoming too, no matter how long it takes or how her journey appears to me. To short circuit her growth hinders her ultimately, rather than helps. I can offer encouragement…I see you. I see you growing. I can surround her with love and prayers. I can cheer her upward progress…Look at you! I knew you could do it. I must let her become. And I can be there when she rises again, ready to walk alongside her.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Let me fall. And watch me rise. I’ll let you fall. And watch you rise. We will be better, stronger, more who we were meant to be, because of it.