The photo above depicts our new beginning and a fresh portal. We start again in a new city, a different community, another context. Here we pause at the threshold of the next decade as I step into my sixties. I have shed plenty to get here, some by choice, so much by force.
Perhaps there was no other way. Maybe the reward is sweeter because the path was perilous. Regardless, second guessing only leads me down into dark depths and serves no purpose in the tricky twilight of hindsight.
Life has led me here, in this moment. This is all I know. For now.
Happy holidays my friends. The times, they are a-changing.
On the last day of July, I take a big gulp and write again. I’ve been trying to figure out what to say after such a long pause, how to kickstart a place that’s grown dusty and silent. Four months have flown by since I’ve marked the page. In that time I’ve traveled extensively, including a family trip to London and back to the East coast twice.
Photos taken with the phone become my journal by giving me handy dates when time runs together as it has this year. I began this blog ten years ago and as in 2009, 2019 is a “nine” year of endings. Several projects and obligations are coming to a close for me. Traumas from the past rise up to be acknowledged and finally put to rest so that I can begin a new cycle in 2020. A new sense of self is slowly emerging from an old chrysalis to the tunes of buzzing cicadas and chirping crickets.
I fear this season is racing along too fast despite exciting travel adventures, jolly gatherings with friends, musical evenings and a few precious days of perfect weather. Autumn will see the completion of some commitments, and while I look forward to a quiet winter, I haven’t had my fill of the sun after a very cold and wet spring and early summer.
At least the barn swallows haven’t left yet. They swirl around the barn roofs and power lines, fattening up on insects and waiting for the later broods to fledge. I take comfort in their aerial acrobatics every day, and am ever grateful for every mosquito they consume. I enjoy and yet brace for the day when the stucco nests are empty and the rooflines bereft.
The morning after the US election, I woke up strangely calm. I didn’t expect that reaction. And then I remembered; I’ve been through this rodeo before. On a personal level. Ironically, or maybe fortuitously, I’d been studying our president-elect’s particular personality disorder during the months leading up to our national November surprise, trying to get a handle on the kind of panic and physical paralysis I experience every time I hear him speak on TV.
His rhetoric throws me back to my old childhood and even recent adult showdowns with family members who exhibit the same traits. In or out of therapy, I’ve used all the tactics that have played out on the national stage in social media and comment threads. Anger, denial, defensiveness, sarcasm, blame, finger-pointing, compliance, withdrawal, pleading, compromise, escape, negotiation, a blind eye, even an occasional proactive offensive — you name it, I’ve tried it. Some of them seemed to work, at first. But in the end, what little gains I’d thought I’d made were just illusions, part of the narcissist’s great charm in promising you the moon but vanishing before you come to collect at sunrise.
I have neither solutions nor cures to offer. As long as the narcissist is getting what he or she wants, there is no motivation to change. It’s a very hard addiction to break. But what I do know is this: that hunger for the spotlight can never be satiated. The more attention (negative or positive) that is fed, the hungrier the appetite. I can only imagine that the gnawing search for more must be a form of hell on earth. And while I must forgive in order to be set free from the vicious dance I participate in as a narcissist’s compliant partner or even adversary, I will not forget.
What’s at stake is the sanctity of life for all of us, narcissists included. The ones in my life have taught me the hard way that no matter what I do or sacrifice for them, it’s never enough. Instead of beaming all our attention on the insatiable ones, I vote that we focus on ourselves, the stars of our own reality shows. We may not determine our outcomes, but we can control our outlooks. Do we sustain healthy boundaries? Do we care too much about what others think of us? Are we doing what’s important or just marking time, filling up space? Are we aware of the lessons being taught to us, supporting us, warning us? Are we awake?
I, for one, have seen the enemy, and behind all the bluster and bravado, they look just like us. In fact, they are us. We all play our parts in this tango, whether we lead or not. And if one partner changes the steps, the other must react, one way or another. Sometimes we follow, sometimes we break apart. And maybe, just maybe, we find a new rhythm, a new dance.
While I really enjoy the month-long photo prompts that are prolifically offered on Instagram throughout the year, sometimes you just have to go maverick and wander off on your own. All the storms and fast-moving weather fronts during the past two months in my neck of the woods have led to plenty of drama in the skies, so I’ve found my camera tilting upward daily (when I’m not cowering in a first-floor hallway while the tornado sirens wail nearby).
After the first two days of sky photos in September, I said what the heck, why not a month of skies, unfiltered, shown just as they are, or as much as my limited but convenient iPhone camera can capture. I wasn’t sure whether thirty days of sky shots was sustainable, but I found ways to incorporate them as reflections on water (or car hood), and as metaphors for a mood to match the front-page antics of the country I live in.
Indeed, with all the drama manifested this month in both sky and earth, I can’t help but think that the ancient adage “As above, so below” is still a very relevant one.
Well, the whole “cord-cutting” experiment didn’t go as smoothly as expected. I won’t go into the ridiculously complicated and frustrating installation fiasco that lasted most of June, but let me just say that it involved two weeks without Internet. That’s TWO WEEKS, fellow readers, cut off from the sustenance of the cyber webs!
Two weeks of waiting for a repair that didn’t need to be done, arguing with several reps on the phone who were incapable of deviating from their scripts, multiple miscommunications and errors that couldn’t be replicated or fixed if you tried, and two weeks of data overage on our cell phones.
BUT it was also two weeks of ignorant bliss, removed from the horrible news reports and vicious Facebook posts by righteous vigilantes, of less time wasted on online games and more opportunities for naps, and finally, the return of a peaceful and calm bedroom devoid of the squawking black box that lulled us to sleep for years with the mayhem and murder of the late local newscast.
Now that speedy connection to the horrors of bad memes and incomprehensible spelling has been restored with many apologies and a little compensation from the corporate goliath we are forced to use, I can look back on the whole nightmare like you would that horrific camping trip where it rained the entire time and your body was covered in chiggers. You’re very glad it’s over but you can afford to be generous, proud, nostalgic even. Was I frustrated? Of course. Angry? You bet. Paranoid that this was all an elaborate plot to punish us for cutting the cord? Guilty as charged.
I’ve been busy in April launching a new adventure, so no daily poetry for National Poetry Month. However, I did participate in Susannah Conway’s April Love prompts on Instagram and enjoyed her “love letter” theme where we wrote to a particular love every day. Some of them were tough — “feet” for instance, or “money.”
And then there were the easy ones like “sky” or “books.” But my favorites by far were the esoteric prompts like “intuition” and “truth.” The above photo accompanied my love letter for “magic” on Day 23:
Dear Magic . . . You are the song from faraway chimes, the bite into June’s first strawberry, the felty down on a freshly hatched chick, and the smoke pouring from a heavenly genie’s lamp.
Here we are again at the end of the month and edge of the nest. For me, March has been full of fearfull flights, fledgling emotion, grounding relapse, molting ineptitude and wind. In my travels I’ve seen old friends, learned new history, felt familiar pain, entered fresh territory, shaken off recurrent doubts, and given myself a good talking to on several occasions.
My clipped wings are sprouting new feathers in spite of national extremism, world pessimism, and the personal bogeyman under my bed who grows more aggressive each day. I don’t get up early. I eat like a bird but continue to gain the weight of a collective conscience. I dismiss social media but can’t stop pecking at it. I look for worms in all the political promises. I tweet desperate songs.
Yet, here I am on the ledge to renewal, twigs of shame and muddy negativity crumbling beneath me, what I called home a shell of my former idealistic imagination. I’m ready to look for a better roost in which to lay my hopes and dreams.
Tomorrow, I open April’s door in search of the great birdhouse in my soul.*
My tradition the last few years has been to choose a “word” for the year, starting in January. My word for 2015 was “Write,” and while I confess that I did write a fair bit, my greatest efforts weren’t in the form I’d imagined last year. Instead of the usual creative outlets like journal entries, poetry or even that book I keep promising to self-publish, I spent a huge chunk of my time in the throes of the hardest writing of my life — along with the blinking cursor of an online grant application that I filled out last fall.
As a grizzled veteran of numerous English research papers and an agonizingly procrastinated Master’s thesis, this is no small claim. The precise language and focused nuances required in proposing my project and asking for funding threw me into a strange new world, since I struggled to accurately portray a vision that would benefit the public as well as my own personal pursuits. You see, this particular grant focuses on creating art outside in state parks, and in my case, that art will be visual rather than verbal.
That’s right, my battles with the written page have been transferred to the terrors of a blank canvas, all in the name of celebrating art in nature. And I will gladly take on that challenge if I can convert even one person to the joys of spending artistic time outdoors, whether it’s to write a poem, compose a song, dance a jig, or set up an easel to paint.
Plus, I’ll be able to travel to some of the most beautiful natural settings that Indiana has to offer with a trusty assistant (my husband), and invite the great outdoors to be my personal work space. In the weeks to come, you’ll see a new WordPress blog called Paints in the Parks detailing my journey as I paint scenic landscapes in six state parks while I research my painting subjects and interact with the park visitors who stop by my easel. I hope you’ll join me on this artistic ride, either by blog or in person.
I believe that in our modern society, we spend too much time cooped up in homes or offices that can become self-made prison cells, preoccupied with the flickering screens of fake connections and false avatars, while a sentient world lies just outside our doors, at the bus stop, on the bike trails, in the parks, and under the shade trees in our backyards; all waiting to be celebrated through ART — my word for 2016.
I’m late to the Chief Inspector Gamache party and slowly working my way through the Louise Penny canon, but this last one that I read took my breath away. Not only is the plot compelling, but the literary quality of writing and compelling compassion of her characters has crowned it as my best book of 2015.
I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.
I’m still absorbing the special words and messages on the prayer flags we made yesterday, honoring Nepal and fundraising for earthquake relief.
Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!