Category Archives: Q4 — Next?

(365) Breathe It In

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A year ago I visited the beach after reading Parker Palmer’s Five Questions. I had this idea to write a blog based on the Five Questions, and I went to the beach for discernment. It was there I felt the move to do the blog.

This past week I have been looking forward to getting this done. But then today, coming on to the site, going to click “Add Post,” I was overcome with sadness. It is the end.

There are many things I will miss about writing here every day. It was hard at first to be “out there,” but I have gotten used to it. I have appreciated my followers and the comments I have received. I have loved that this was a place I could struggle with the issues of aliveness-vs-fixed answers; what it means to dare to be human; the moments of human and natural beauty; looking forward to what to love next; and to uncover and discover and explore what creations are waiting to be birthed. The Five Questions will continue to travel with me, as they have become a part of me now.

WordPress sent me a review of my year. Here are some stats from them:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

There were 625 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 433 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was December 19th with 86 views. The most popular post that day was(353) Best Day Ever.

The stats don’t tell the full story, of course. Besides what I have learned from the Five Questions, I have learned a lot about what it takes to write every single day. For those thinking of starting your own daily blog, here are some insights:

  1. Don’t be afraid to write short.  At first I thought it all had to be long. It is impossible on a daily blog to write long all the time unless it is your only job. Don’t even try.
  2. You will feel like giving up.
  3. When you feel like giving up, keep going.
  4. Create categories to fall back on.  For example, I had my Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, Parallels, Tributes, Lyric Series, and Micro Memoirs. These can help be having a frame to fill when you aren’t feeling particularly inspired.
  5. Know that whatever you decide to do with your daily blog, it is leading you somewhere you weren’t aware you were going. Words are a river that carry us. Your blog will carry you to unseen territory. Relish the journey. Know when to end, and gratefully disembark to a new destination.

This project has been extremely fulfilling to me as a writer, a teacher, a friend, and a human being. I have considered all kinds of directions from here.  I am committing myself to my music on a more structured basis. Just like with my writing, I’ve diddled around a long time not getting serious about music. Now that I have this fine year of blogging behind me, I can move forward on making music. And, as already discussed with my music teacher, I can use blog posts as fodder for songwriting. Win-win!!!

For some reason today, the song “Beautiful Like You” popped into my head.  I feel it is a good send-off for my blog. I will miss coming here and writing for the 2-100 of you who happen upon my blog. At the same time, I am looking forward to putting my time and mental energies into other areas. Meanwhile, remember to breathe and take time to look and listen to the world around you. It will reflect all the beauty you need in the moment.

I know. I’ve learned it through the Five Questions.

If you could only just stop, stop, stop running
If you could only take a second to breathe it in
Everything that you know would be beautiful like you

You know they’re never gonna stop, stop, stop your love
Let’s pretend that the world is waking up
Everything that we see is beautiful like you, like you

 

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(364) Stay Tuned

Yesterday a friend gave me this awesome shirt:

StayTuned

I decided it was perfect for my musings today. I am typing this as I go, after thinking about the theme a lot, after going to Lakes Park and sitting in my power spot. Here goes…second last post!

**

Moving toward 2016, I understand my life is going to be more and more about sound. How the world sounds. How I sound. How we sound to each other.

Walking in the park today, I was behind two people who both had ear buds in, yet were talking loudly to each other. They obviously were listening to something, but decided it was important to communicate.  But here was my thought: If we really want to hear each other, we should be cognizant of shutting out other noise. It is like the people who talk on the phone when the television is on. Why?

**

This year has opened me up to sound. I planned a whole vacation around sound. We heard bluegrass music and blues music and synthesized music and musicians talking about the sounds specific instruments make, the sound of Jim and I singing together in the music booth at the Birthplace of Country Music, the sound of the Flint, the Cumberland, and the French Broad Rivers, the sound of old blues musicians wafting across Dockery Farms, the sound of The City of New Orleans speeding next to Money Road in the Delta. These sounds have stayed with me and I call on them from time to time.

Today as I walked I brushed my hand through all the palm fronds I passed. “How can I duplicate that sound” was my constant question.

**

Paul Simon had an exhibit on his songwriting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I was unable to get there, so I purchased the exhibit booklet. In it is Simon’s speech when he was inducted into the Rock Hall.  He said:

I thank Sam Phillips for Sun Records, for rockabilly’s Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, whose recording of ‘Mystery Train’ remains my all-time favorite. I spent a career trying to get that sound.

This stood out to me for many reasons. First, because “Mystery Train” is my favorite Elvis tune, mostly because of the way it sounds. And second, because this came late in the book and I had already read Simon’s words over and over again about trying to get to a sound.  The exhibit was called “Words and Music,” but from what I read it was really about sound.

As I stay tuned to the sounds in my life, I am looking to get them into any music I create. My music teacher talked mainly about sound when I told him I wanted to write songs. Silly me — I thought it was about lyrics. Seems that isn’t always the case.

Not sure why I’m just learning that.

**

A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook:

Soundmeme

We are the music we love. I want to do this experiment. Tell me the song that matters most to you, and I will listen for you in it.

**

Years ago I heard that our DNA, when related to various musical notes, creates a different musical composition for every person. This idea has never left me, and continues to intrigue. Today I found there is a website for it (of course there is) where you can actually send in your DNA information and the type of music you like, and they will create the composition for you. Here is a future birthday present!

If interested, check it out here.

They have created songs for all kinds of things, including this one for whales:

 

So, yes, sound is in our very DNA.

With sound comes vibration. This is why crystal bowl meditation and bells during ritual services and chanting monks lift us to new dimensions. Sounds and vibrations are our lifeblood. They can heal or poison.

**

As I finish up this blog, my plan is to stay tuned to the Five Questions in my life. They have truly become a part of me during this journey, and now I cannot imagine living life without seeing it through the lens of the Five Questions. Not writing about it will free me up to be in the moment, to search for the sound in the message, to stay tuned to doing the next right thing. All year long I have been listening, and this message comes to me continually like a drumbeat.

Listen.

Here (hear).

Now.

 

 

 

(358)Christmas Eve, Lighthouse Beach

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All

It’s all just water

this life

all aspects

coming, going

waves, ripples,

floods, waterfalls,

condensation, clouds,

humidity, dew, and frost.

Lighthouse1

Phantom

Fort Myers Beach, a

phantom in the distance

a haze of buildings

blending to white

cloud sky.

Lighthouse3

Grounding

On the ground

Healing in motion

comes up from the earth

through my spine

       to my mind and heart.

The waves sounds

constant and rhythmic,

coming through my

chest cavity

my ear cavity

       to my mind and heart.

The sun direct on me

warm, but not hot

drenching me in its

yellow goodness

       brightening my mind and heart.

Lighthouse4

Waves

How do I love

     that wave

Yes — the one

that happened

in the time it

      takes for a breath

     in and out.

How do I love it in

all of its white frothy

glory, saying to me,

I’m here,

I’m gone,

it was fun.

How do I love the next

wave, and the next?

Why is there so much to love?

 

(356) Zanies

As I wind down this blog, it is on my mind that I never finished my Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. According to what I have documented, I was up to the letter “S” on September 2nd. I’ve been wanting to get back to it, but most of what I want to write about demands a lot of time — something I just haven’t had.

For the letters T,U,V, and W I have some things planned that will be fit in well with ending this blog year. That leaves X-Y-Z, that are always considered as one.  I’ve decided that since I can basically make the rules on my own blog, I am going to do these out of order, and attack X-Y-Z today.  The rest will be coming within the next week.

**

Why is it that some days just stand out in our minds? I have a handful of days in my life that actually don’t have anything outstanding that happened —  they are ordinary days — yet somehow become memorable days. Such was July 28, 1979.

At the time my parents, along with two of my brothers and my sister, were living in the Chicago area.  I found out that my brother’s girlfriend, Donna, was going to be in Chicago in late July. Flights were pretty cheap to Chicago from Cleveland, so I decided to fly in for the weekend. My brother Matt was going to be driving Donna back to Cleveland on Sunday, so I decided that I’d ride back with them.

I flew in Friday night, and I remember nothing about that except that my parents were heading to Cleveland for some reason, so we were alone at the house. There was something about us all being young adults and having the whole house and city to ourselves — it was a first for us.

On Saturday we decided to go hang around downtown Chicago. Matt and Donna were college students, and Martin was still in high school, so this plan was not to do anything fancy. It was just to be there. Donna had her camera and took pictures. Here is a little photo journey.

Chicago1
Yes, there we are rolling down the hill in a park, downtown Chicago
Chicago2
Buckingham Fountain, later to become popular in the opening of the show “Married With Children”
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The Air Show was taking place in Chicago that weekend. Everywhere we went, loud planes were flying overhead and entertaining us.
Chicago4
Taking a break to watch the show, our 70’s perms blowing in the wind. And look at those snazzy flip-flops!

After hanging around downtown all afternoon, we drove back home to change and grab a bite to eat. Then Matt, Donna, and I went back to Old Town, the entertainment strict,  to Zanies Comedy Club.  These types of clubs were just getting popular, and I don’t think I had ever been to one before we went to Zanies. We laughed our asses off! The main attraction was a female comic with an accordian by the name of Judy Tenuta.  She would later become fairly popular on cable television comedy specials (see video below to see if you remember her.)  We bought Zanies t-shirts that were a take-off on Superman shirts (also popular at this time with the Christopher Reeve film.) All in all, this day sticks in my mind for the perfect weather, relaxing company, and the excitement of big city Chicago on a small budget. No need to go to fancy restaurants or do any shopping. Just walking around, rolling down hills, and watching the free air show made for a perfect day with family.

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Matt and Donna are still together after all these years.

(355)Miracle

It was a winter day in early 1992. I was driving my Buick Regal to a meeting across town. I was taking a two lane road that cut through a valley, which entailed going down a hill. Unfortunately, it had just begun to snow–the wet, slippery kind of snow. Salt trucks had not made it out yet, as they were quite good about getting the hill salted quickly in these kinds of circumstances.

When I got to the hill, I found myself in a line of traffic. Immediately I felt my car slip a bit, so I began to pump the brake. This is the recommended procedure. But it didn’t help. My car continued to slip and slide as I descended the hill. And then I realized my steering was not working. I found myself in the opposite lane heading for a collision with a pick-up truck. I was unable to do a thing. I was pumping the brakes like mad, to no result. Steering still was not working. I found myself suddenly back in my own lane (miracle!) and that is when I decided just to let it all go. I had this moment where I just gave it up to the Angels. If I plow into the guard rail, so be it.

Then I found myself at the bottom of the hill. My steering was reinstated. I had not crashed. I pulled over into the feed store parking lot, shaking profusely. I called Jim on my car phone (yes, I had one of those!) and related what happened. Neither of us could figure out how my steering had disengaged.  I felt the Angels had protected me.

About a year later, we visited a car show. My lease was going to be up, and I was shopping for a new brand. The big selling point for the cars was a thing called “anti-lock brakes.”  We spoke with a saleswoman at the Infinity dealership, and asked, “What’s the big deal with anti-lock brakes.” She explained that in unstable conditions, the brakes will lock up causing the steering to go out. Bingo!  That is exactly what had happened to me on that hill. The brakes and the steering were useless to me. When I stopped trying to steer and pump the brakes, my car was able to make use of those mechanics once again.

So, perhaps the entire event had nothing to do with angels, and more to do with technology. Still, I recall that moment of just giving it over, knowing anything could happen, and not having any attachment to the outcome as one of the most important moments of my life. I opened the door to a miracle. And I received.

(349) Time and Distance

In 2007, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I produced a draft of a book, much of it set in Athens, Ohio. The problem was I hadn’t been to Athens since 1978.  I was going from pure memory.

My plan was to work on revising the novel, so when I made a trip to Ohio in 2008 I enlisted my niece Cheryl to be my tour guide around Athens. She graduated Ohio University in 2006, so had recent memories of the place.

On a beautiful late July day, we drove to Athens. Cheryl has a degree in Journalism and works as a writer, so she was the perfect companion to assist me in my writing project. We spent the day at the University and around the town. The locations of certain places were quite different than my memory had allowed, and Cheryl also introduced me to some places I wasn’t familiar with, like the unmarked graves of the patients of a former mental hospital, and the other graveyard with the angel statue that is said to cry real tears. All great stuff for my book.  I insisted we go to Stroud’s Run, a park that I recall going to for cook-outs when my boyfriend went to school at OU.

On the way home, we stopped in Columbus to catch up with her sisters Emily and Kim. All in all it was a great day.

And the novel — hasn’t been touched since. By the time I got home in early August school was starting once again. I did do some more planning work around the book, and I have my notes.  Not sure if or when I will ever get back to it.

Perhaps my inspiration is near.  I just found out that Cheryl will be in Florida next week, and we have plans to get together. As an active and paid writer in our family, she remains a kind of muse to me. Let’s see what happens once we get together again. I know that part of the process of writing involves time and distance, so I don’t feel bad about not pursuing the revision.  But now, as I sit and write this, I am thinking that perhaps there is more here for me to think about. So I will. Promise.

(347) Across the Borderline

My favorite Willie Nelson album came out in 1993. It was an album of covers, which many of his are, including “Graceland” and “Don’t Give Up” among them.  I’ve been listening to the CD in my car, and today the title song caught my attention: “Across the Borderline.”

 

As I listened to the words, I thought it was pretty ambiguous. Is the narrator talking about heaven or making or dreams come true?  It is all about loss and having to let go.  It talks about a “broken promised land.”

 

There’s a place where I’ve been told
Every street is paved with gold
And it’s just across the borderline
And when it’s time to take your turn
Here’s a lesson that you must learn
You could lose more than you’ll ever hope to find

 

When you reach the broken promised land
And every dream slips through your hands
Then you’ll know that it’s too late to change your mind
‘Cause you’ve paid the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline

 

But then the lyrics take a shift, and it seems to be talking exclusively about Mexicans crossing the border:

 

Up and down the Rio Grande
A thousand footprints in the sand
Reveal a secret no one can define
The river flows on like a breath
In between our life and death
Tell me who’s the next to cross the borderline En la triste oscuridad (In the sad darkness)
Hoy tenemos que cruzar (today we have to cross)
Este río que nos llama mas alla (this river which calls us further away)

*

This took me back to my classroom of 10th graders, March 2010. They were working on an immigrant project, and as part of the project they were to do panel discussions regarding their immigrant background. The Mexican group was most compelling because of a story by one young man: David. As he told the story of crossing the river, tears streamed down his face. They had to meet up with a man and his mother lost track of the group, got swept away somehow. She ended up having to walk ten miles in the desert to find them — how she survived such an ordeal, I’ll never know. The story had every single person in the classroom in tears. I know it had a lasting impact because at the end of the year when we discussed the favorite things about the class, that day stood out to many students. They had received a huge lesson in empathy and understanding for the plights and traumas of others…something we can all use a bit more of these days.

 

But hope remains when pride is gone
And it keeps you moving on
Calling you across the borderline

When you reach the broken promised land
Every dream slips through your hands
And you’ll know it’s too late to change your mind
‘Cause you pay the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline
Now you’re still just across the borderline
And you’re still just across the borderline

 

Songwriters: COODER, RYLAND PETER / DICKINSON, JAMES LUTHER / HIATT, JOHN ROBERT

 

 

 

(342) Empty Highway

I woke early that morning. Home alone because my husband worked nights, my typical routine was to have the clock radio wake me. I had on my t-shirt and sweatpants, as it was an unusually mild time for December in northeastern Ohio. I was on the floor stretching when I realized I had heard more than one John Lennon song in the time since I had gotten up. Then the radio talk finally filtered in and I caught the news — John Lennon had been murdered the night before.

At the time, I lived in a high-rise apartment building next to a shopping mall. A new highway was being built nearby and was basically finished, just waiting for the official opening. That morning I ran the paved path that paralleled the highway, the long stretch of solemn emptiness, feeling stunned at the violence and tragedy, feeling alone in the world. No one else was around. I was holding the news of John’s loss in my heart. I can still feel the damp air on my face and see the lights on the empty highway in that early morning darkness. I ran until I was out of breath.

And I don’t remember ever running there again.

 

(321) This Week in Micro Memoir

At the Sanibel Island Writer’s Conference, I heard presenter Beth Ann Fennelly mention “micro memoir.” She explained that it was a memory in a paragraph. She is currently writing a book of them.

I have noticed that since her explanation little “moments” are popping up in my mind– things that in the past I might think I have to write a lot about. But now I know I don’t.  A paragraph will do.

Here is my first attempt:

August 30, 1997

We don’t always recall when a switch occurred in our lives. Sometimes we don’t even think about it unt73565446_73563082-150x150il we get a flash of memory. This week I made a surprising connection between a global event and my memory. It was the night Princess Diana got in the fatal car accident. I had only been active on America Online for about six months, and had joined some message boards for things like Music, Poetry Writing, and The Artist’s Way. On that Saturday night, I was checking the message board when someone posted about the accident. I am not sure if it was later that night or the next day I heard Diana had died. This was the first time I received notice of a major event by reading it on the computer, written by an everyday person– not hearing it on television or the newspaper, from an “official” source. Since then, of course, there have been many, many more. But that was the start. The night Diana died.

(317) Musings from a Blogger

Off and on I think about life after this blog. What will it be like to wake up in the morning and know I do not HAVE to write?  For the last 317 days, I have not had that luxury. I look around and see all the reading I want to do and all the music I want to play and I think…The day is coming. 

Of course, that is not really true. I know when the day comes–January 1st–I will be happy, yet secretly worried that I won’t write, or I will put off writing, or I will fail to make the discoveries that has made this writing project so fruitful to me personally.

I think about the body of work I have created. Sometimes I look back and I’m simply amazed at things I have written and have forgotten all about.

Which brings me to my next point. I love the photos and videos I can attach on the tech format, but I feel somewhat removed at the same time. It takes time and effort to find things I wrote because of the format I chose for the blog. Now I am thinking how much I want my writing scrawled first and then printed and in my hands. I like it better that way.

Which leads to my next point: I had moved my students toward digital writing rather than using their notebooks, and I’m feeling the same “removed” feeling in the classroom. I have decided we need to get back to the tactile–hand writing.

It has been an interesting journey as a writer and a teacher to be involved in this tech format. It is has a place, no doubt. But I am heading back to the wild woods of the hand written word for myself and my students. I need to recover the piece that is missing.