The Latest Word

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I could come up with a lot of excuses why I didn’t write much last year: surviving a polar vortex without power, the resulting major downsize and move, over 4000 miles of family-related travel, technology updating, complete lifestyle and dietary overhauls, not to mention my forays into choral singing, Instagram and meditative art projects. But I won’t go there. Okay, I just did, but it all added up to an open invitation, apparently, to forsake my pen, paper and laptop.

This is my fourth year of One Little Word, and I’ve learned by this time around that, like wishes, you have to be careful what word you choose. Case in point, my pick for last year sure turned out to be a doozy. And still going strong because I find the momentum unstoppable. In fact, just putting a single word down on the un-erasable paper of your psyche can have a profound impact. Saying it out loud is even better. And physically writing it out, well now, that can have the biggest punch of all.

Despite deceptively simple instructions, careful consideration must always be taken in making your choice. Forever looking for an easy way out, I’d hoped it would be a breeze to actually write my Word for 2015, because it is WRITE. But as you can see, I’ve taken half of January to get the guts to announce this here on the blog. And even longer to sit my derrière down and do the work. (Steven Pressfield is my writing guru at the moment.)

So, I’m starting the year with a fresh journal, a new blog template and much resistance. Plus knowledge that the simplest word can be the hardest.

Huh. Go figure.

And while you’re at it, go figure out what yours is. Trust me. Word.

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The Downsizing Dozen: Case of the Missing Mac

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Well, this has been an interesting October. While one would hardly call me a Luddite, I was reduced to a smart phone, some stolen moments with my husband’s computer, and the throwback of pen upon paper, while my ancient five-year-old laptop was away for updates.

I admit that I was one of the lingering Mac users who still clung to the old Snow Leopard pride in operating systems while the rest of the world marched on to bigger cats, and eventually became mavericks reaching new heights in Yosemite. When links failed to open, secured sites became insecure, and social media lambasted me to change my browser with such frequency that I could’t ignore the situation any longer, I reluctantly scheduled surgery that would require wiping my laptop and restoring its information.

What caused such fear of change? Not so long ago, I eagerly embraced the latest operating system or newfangled gadget that would supposedly enhance my life. In a word, it is “digital,” a battle cry for minimalism, and the blessing and bane of my life. During my Great Downsizing Purge of 2014, and even before, I extolled its virtues while digitizing music, photos and documents, and backing them up in various formats.

The problem with updates and interconnecting devices, however, is that sometimes you are locked out of older program versions after updating, or your phone, computer and tablet can gang up on you in the Cloud these days, deciding to delete everything in your best interests. This, along with the realization that I’ve digitized nearly all my meaningful music, writing and photos since 2003, is enough to give me pause.

So, in October I spent an inordinate amount of time googling worst-case scenarios and possible options while waiting for my beloved word processor to return from Apple’s latest mountaintop, wondering if it could even survive the thin air of progress much less work properly. I’m happy to report that it’s running well with a fresh outlook under the lid, although my old friend came home to find a new grandchild added to the family, a tiny tablet with better retinal vision and response time than its elder.

For now, we’re progressing cautiously, with a bigger backup arsenal, a variety of devices to do the job, and a little more confidence.

Once a month for the next twelve, I’ll feature another step in the downsizing journey that didn’t just begin when we sold our suburban house and moved to a small walk-up apartment in June of 2014. This shift to a simpler life has been years in the making, and I hope you’ll join me in my family’s quest to get down to basics. My inaugural post entitled Giving It All Away was featured in July, Make It Stick in August, and Following Your Feet in September.

The Goodbye Girl

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Since my office/bedroom window faces west above the driveway, if I’m lucky there’s a gorgeous sunset to spotlight the exits of important people in my life, as they drive off to perform other enterprising roles.

I, on the other hand, remain offstage in shadowy self-employed uncertainty, waiting for all that is churning inside of me to appear on the written page.

Meanwhile, those snowy prima donna piles have disappeared, a budding chorus is ready to burst its buttons, and soon novice tips of palest green should timidly reach out to test a line that is just passing through.

Despite changes in scenery, no doubt I will stay at my post as chief cook and window waver, listening for a cue.

The Chopped Wood Blogiversary

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Five years ago this week, emboldened by some success on BlogHer, I hit the publish button to a maiden post on my first blog. I had a vague idea about what my subject matter would be, and of course, posting actual photos for each entry wouldn’t occur to me for another six months or more, but I gradually learned my widgets and minded my stats.

Since then, I have not looked back, but you can in the archives to the right. Considering the variety of categories listed over there, Suburban Satsangs has covered some eclectic ground over the years, and helped me to reconcile the many hats I’ve worn as wife, mother, empty-nester, librarian, gardener, cook, minimalist, photographer, poet, knitter and squirrel wrangler.

And what about those lofty notions from the muddled muse, temperamental truth seeker and lazy New Ager? Well, that my friends will always be a work in progress. With the stars as my guide and nature for my teacher, I’ll never run out of lessons. Or busywork for that matter–you know, the daily act of getting out of bed to fetch water, chop wood.

Ah, but the path to enlightenment is never smooth, particularly when trying to post during a Mercury Retrograde (yes, we’re having another one right now). Still, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The gratifying part about exposing your foibles to the world in a blog, comes from great folks you meet in the comments and WordPress readers. I am very honored that all of you who stop by, choose to spend precious time reading my wordy whimsies. Thank you so much.

In a few weeks, I hope to show my gratitude by offering to faithful readers a collection of the most popular posts from Suburban Satsangs (preferably after Mercury is on its merry way forward again). Stay tuned, my friends and keep an eye peeled.

The best is yet to come.

The Year of Movement

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My garage door won’t close. When I lower it automatically, the bottom hits the concrete of our driveway raised by frost heave and sensing obstruction, heads back up. If I don’t pay attention closely enough, I might drive away with my house gaping to the world, my interior exposed for scrutiny.

Like some kind of door wrangler, I’ve become adept at hitting my opener at the precise moment to keep the door down and the seal as tight as possible. We’ve stuffed towels in gaps along the sides to prevent another polar vortex from bursting our pipes. And still, when I enter my garage, I feel a frigid breeze on the inside and realize how futile it is to deny the winds of change.

Not wanting to undo our elaborate barricades, the whole family’s been stuck for days. Our cars are imprisoned in the so-called protection of our attached garage, and it’s too dangerously cold to walk anywhere. We each have our own way of dealing with solitary confinement. I look out my dirty windows and judge what goes on outside through the customary glass and filters. Weather forecasts grow bleaker each time I obsessively check my smartphone and supposed friends on impersonal social networks thank lucky stars that their “reality” isn’t mine.

Even a large batch of silly robins who never left are stuck, hunkered down in windbreaks with their pale red breasts puffed out and deathly quiet, hoping for a whiff of spring. Their presence in January mocks my sense of timing. What am I waiting for? Vocation, health, dreams and dinner choices — all glued in frozen molasses to my fears of what might be.

Reflected in the grimy winter window, I recognize my parents’ and grandparents’ reluctance to leave their cold misery for unknown sunnier climes, and realize I am hovering perilously close to that ice age of stagnation.

So, my word for 2014 is MOVEMENT. It starts right now. First, I clean the windows. Then, I develop an exit strategy from all the mental impediments I have carefully crafted over past decades. Road map in hand (my mind doesn’t hear the voices of GPS), I can finally pull away the insulating tape and draft guards against an overactive imagination, freeing my way out to a different future with no guarantees.

And I will not look back to see if the door has reopened or the latch didn’t quite catch, revealing shameful tales of entrapment inside my old interiors. Perhaps someone else can learn from the fearful furniture and ruined reservations I’ve left behind.

There Will Be Chalk Dust

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I’m a big-time smudger. Ever since I was a child who proudly wore her grubby cuffs ringed with graphite, I’ve avoided the crisp-edged side of reality, preferring my world pushed into impressionistic blur across a page.

I like to use my fingers, really get into the grain, smoothing out wrinkles on those foreheads of landscape and still life. And while my sketch pencils need to have sharp wits about them, the pastels should lay out soft as new love.

I favor big sheets of textured paper and a long enough ruler to start out straight before a rip tide of color takes me off to faraway lands, where petals move on a slight breeze and flesh glows with every shade other than the wax of its crayola namesake.

There is no better bliss than the suggestive tint from warm afternoon windows, tunes cranked up a little too loud, a wineglass full of ruby, and time stopping to take a look at what flows from under this dusty hand. Why do I always forget how good this feels once underway, counting back the years I’ve been stalled like some stubborn old man with too many regrets in his pocket to begin again.

None of those sinkholes from the past matter when it is just for you.

A Creative Carol

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For me, true life change is always a cold dive from radical heights, never any soft slides into the lukewarm wading pool of transition. Struck over the head with absolute misery, I am forced to concede inside a prison of my own making, while angels of opportunity do their best to get my attention by waving the keys to my freedom.

What was it this time? Well, I was felled for a month by the worst illness of my life, a stunning combination of hideous head cold, a clutch of bronchitis and then the wicked flu. I never get the flu.

For weeks I wallowed on a rumpled sick bed, watching lives flash before my eyes in between horrendous bouts of coughing, fever and nose blowing. Family came and went, an entire season of holiday celebrations carried on without me, and then the world went back to work in 2013 while I still lingered on the fringes, transparent as Marley’s ghost.

During convalescence, I had plenty of time to review my sins. This kind of plague was clearly a message sent to knock some sense into me. And while 2012 would be considered a productive year, I had somehow run off course in a big way. Over the months, I took an easy path back to old roles, enjoying the quick hit of rescuer, and the heady attention of being needed.

Somehow, I always forget what this costs me.

I looked to others for fresh paths, and found only shoes that didn’t fit. I took a ride back to the past and saw the future. And I didn’t like it much.

If I’d been paying attention along the way, the spirits of tense would have shown me where my first salvation lies. It has been there all along, but I only reach for this life preserver when all other help is refused.

On my knees, with the specter of a life un-lived roughly sketched out in front of me, I’ve finally grasped that first key of opportunity. I admit to being stingy with creativity and a scrooge to my dreams. I confess to throwing myself at the status quo and camouflaging in a cloak of conformity. I let the fear of freedom win.

So, my word for 2013 is CREATE. My fevered walks with what could be have opened many doors to studio, desk, easel, lens, blank page, and the world.  And as I renew my vows to this life, I will practice it all without a mind to results, recognition or an ending.

Only the beginning.