Transitions

17 03 2017

rxs

17 March 2017

Many of you know that my daughter was diagnosed with a serious health issue in April. Since then, there have been multiple hospital stays during which someone, mostly me, has remained with her. Recently, it was a nine-day visit which included the ICU. During that time, I was 150% focused on her, managing the multitude of medications, tests, and decisions that occurred while working with a multi-disciplinary team.

I was ever so thankful when she was discharged, but still I provided a wide range of tasks while she regained her strength at home. As each day passed, I was needed less and less, a miraculous event. I was honored to have helped in the process, grateful my schedule was flexible, and just thrilled that it all had made a difference. But I found myself struggling with the transition from being “Kay’s Mom” to “Beth” again. I felt a bit like a yo-yo, focusing on her and her only, and then flipping back to my life – what was it that I used to do with my time? And there also was the question: how to return to my life, especially knowing that I might have to drop it again at a moment’s notice?

I share this with my partner, a therapist with forty-plus years of experience working with people. “I tell my clients that transitions are hard,” he says. I wait for more from him, more insight, perhaps some gently prodding questions or a  hug. But that’s it.

beth-on-the-fence-at-bluff-point

And it’s exactly that type of communication/lack of response (among a slew of more serious things) that led me to decide to make a break from this three-and-a-half year partnership. And it’s yet another transition, this time from being in a relationship to being single. What happens with the space that has been devoted to Relationship and Other when they are gone? What flows in to fill up the time, the mind, and the heart?

Well, I definitely am writing more. I put these ideas out there, into cyberspace. Sometimes I get heartfelt responses, sometimes not too much. Either way, that feels better than what I was getting when I was coupled. I’ve returned to my part-time, short-term position with the city’s Arts and Culture Office. I’ve reconnected with a writing partner. I am trying to resume my meditation practice. I am spending more time outside. I am playing less solitaire and eating less chocolate, both of which were indicators of my stress level.

I’ve also noticed that it’s amazing what comes when there is space. Even unaware of my relationship change, one friend volunteers to shovel my driveway after a significant storm. Another sends me an interesting article about forest bathing, the process of experiencing the healing atmosphere of a woodland environment. A third brings a full-course meal to my back porch. Someone suggests a book that provides a significant boost to my creativity and courage. In fact, life is rich and fills my spaces with meaning.

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Time, Place, and Space

13 02 2017

big-magic-cover

February 13, 2017

Fellow naturalist and writer Julie Zickefoose recommended Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert as a reminder “to beat fear back in the pursuit of self-expression.” I had not been impressed with her Eat Pray Love. I don’t even remember how I felt when I finished Committed. I heard and then forgot that Gilbert left that chronicled and hard-fought relationship to partner with a friend now facing multiple cancers. But Julie’s words resonated at the moment. A long weekend was coming up and I had some free time and no book.

When I started Big Magic, I was hooked by the defining question: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? I shared this with my cousin, also writing a book; she was skeptical of Gilbert’s work and asked for more information. I kept reading and just loved her concept that an idea–a book plot, a scientific discovery, and the like–is an energetic entity that floats around, trying to find a home with someone who will implement it. After a while, this idea can get tired of waiting for a host to act and will move on to another more likely prospect. The example given by Liz Gilbert is a story line she had invested some time into researching, only to be distracted by her then partner’s deportation and the subsequent book (Committed) which described all that. When she went back to this other plot, she’d lost all the vim and vigor to write it…it was gone. Around this time, she became friends with novelist Ann Patchett. A year later, Patchett shared the premise of her work in progress, and it was almost the same plot as the one Gilbert had lost. Gilbert felt the idea had transferred to Patchett when they first met; it had found a more probable person to bring it to completion.

misty-dawn-and-beth-on-hike

My cousin and I during the time she lent me A State of Wonder

OK, that’s all pretty cool, but it happened to them, not me. Then I realized I had read that book of Patchett’s, State of Wonder. Then, holy moly, it hit me! This same cousin who’d asked for more information about Big Magic had Patchett’s book with her when I last saw her, and had lent it me to read! That felt like a confirmation of this concept–that ideas float around looking for a likely host–with a link that included me.

So, I dwelt a bit on this concept. It’s about being at the right place at the right time. Ideas, people, and events all intersect with us at a particular time and place. We’ve all felt the serendipity of running into someone, or coming across an idea in one location, and then seeing it again in a second and maybe even third place. Then, whether we pick them up or are oblivious to them really is about how open we are at the moment. If we are willing to stop and listen, to provide a space for these whispers from the universe, then we can experience the richness of life. We can learn and grow and live in wonder and amazement.





The River and the Lake

27 01 2017

salmon-river

January 27, 2017

While I am waiting for my daughter’s appointment to begin, I notice a box of Earth Magic Oracle cards (Steven D. Farmer) and begin to fiddle with the deck. I shuffle and move the cards around and, eventually, one of them flies out of the pile onto my lap. I pick it up: RIVER, movement. My daughter is called into her appointment and I head out to the local state park, where I usually go for the hour and a half that she’s busy. If I’d had any hesitations in walking on this windy, cold day, they were quashed by the fortuitous oracle card; the park covers hundreds of acres that include a scenic river.

I walk the direct route to the new boat launch, all the while singing river songs. “River, take me along” (Bill Staines), “I was born by the river” (Sam Cooke), and finally, “Let’s go down to the river to pray,” (a traditional song popularized in O Brother, Where Art Thou). I think about the card’s text that encourages movement. I certainly have been stagnating in one section of my life and recently decided to move on. I consider the card an affirmation of that choice. But the card’s words also discourage forcing the issue. We need to flow more like the river, enjoying the scenery along the way, not letting our egos drive what is happening.

lake

I return to pick up my daughter, who is not yet finished, so I pull out the deck once more to review the RIVER card and I notice another card sitting on the floor. When and how did that get there? I pick it up: LAKE, stillness. I can suddenly feel peace and relaxation moving through my body and I sit more centered in the chair. “No matter if the noise is from your environment or your seemingly nonstop thinking, it is critical for you to seek stillness.” Yes, I had found that on my walk. When I had arrived at the river, after the cawing of the crows, it had been quiet. And I had become still and I felt myself expanding and opening while standing on the river’s edge.

devils-hopyard-with-ice

So, it’s really all about balance. Between the movement and stillness. Appearing to be opposites, but actually working together. If I begin with Stillness and get connected with my inner self and how I’m linked to the rest of the living beings in this world, then I know my purpose. When I know why I’m here, I can then take action, make Movements that support my raison d’etre, and actually help with the flow and progression of what is good and meaningful in this world.

The River and the Lake.
Movement and Stillness.
Bring them on!





Shellfishing in Southeastern Connecticut

23 01 2017

bluff-point-beachAs I drove into Bluff Point State Park to meet my hiking group, I was surprised to see that the lot was full. Last week when we came here, there were a handful of cars, while today maybe fifty. As I unpacked my bag, I noticed that people were carrying various equipment, rakes, and buckets. They appeared to be checking in with a man in a truck over near the trail head, so I walked over to see what this was all about.

bluff-point-shellfish-warden
It turns out that it’s shellfishing season in southeastern Connecticut, and the Town of Groton’s warden was checking people’s equipment and catch. The weathered man gave me a copy of shellfishing regulations; we are in the Poquonnock River area, with an all-year open season.

One of the participants was returning from his morning and I asked him a few questions. He showed me his rake, with knife-like tines an inch apart and a basket to gather what he’d harvested. He took about two and a half hours to reach his maximum, which is a peck (about two gallons). What a quaint use of an antiquated term! He showed me that the clams had to be retained in a two-inch ring, while the oysters were measured in a three-inch ring. He suggested wearing chest waders, and even then his feet were cold.

bluff-point-shellfisher-with-equipment-trolley
The harvesters used a wide range of contraptions to carry their equipment along a mile or so of sandy road to reach the waters. “How often do you come?” I asked one of them. “Oh, as often as I can.” “What do you do with your catch?” I ask another. “Do you sell them?” “Oh, no, can’t do that.” I found it fascinating that these people would spent two to three hours out in frigid conditions in the middle of January to gather a bucket full of shellfish. Hardy souls!

bluff-point-merganzer
As I was driving out of the park, I marveled at my luck and was grateful for living here in Connecticut and having the flexibility to go on hikes and experience so many things, like shellfishing. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a Red-breasted Merganser foraging close to shore. By the time I stopped and took its photo, he was already high-tailing it for safety in deeper waters. What a sweet departing gift!





Northwest Park, Windsor and Friendly’s, Windsor Locks

20 01 2017

20 January 2017

The day promised to be sunny and in the high forties when Cherry and I head to Windsor for our hike to Friendly’s. It doesn’t get that warm, or sunny, but we arrive ready to go at Northwest Park and Nature Center, owned by the city.

We decide to take trails to the north in order to end up at Rainbow Reservoir. Cherry excitedly tells me she’s heard from a local researcher that he and a colleague might be interested in making a documentary about her uncle. Her father’s brother, John, was likely the last chaplain on Ellis Island and had led an interesting and colorful life. Cherry, still working through probate of John’s estate, has his notes and many relevant documents that could be useful. I’m familiar with the work of the two colleagues she’s mentioned and they would do justice to her uncle’s life.

We see no one else, as we walk past open fields and old tobacco barns. We enter the forest on the eastern edge of the reservoir and enjoy the leafy cover on well-maintained trails. I am surprised to see that the reservoir is frozen, with crows and logs perched atop the ice. We talk about recent events and my desire to be more in touch with my inner voice, to trust and listen to it. I ask Cherry for advice, and she encourages me to provide sufficient down time, by myself, to hear my voice. During the rest of our hike, Cherry points out when in fact I have heard and listened to my voice, during recent medical interventions and with interactions with others.

“A jewel for the town of Windsor,” Cherry decides. Before long, we loop back to the nature center, where we enjoy the use of real bathrooms and their exhibits, including Oreo, their California king snake.

And, fortunately, our Friendly’s is only a short ride away. I notice the exterior is bright white. “Easier for seniors to see,” suggests Cherry. And has a drive-thru! I don’t remember that from any of our visits.

We are served by a perky waitress named Michelle. When we aren’t quite ready to order, she quips, “I’m here until five!” When I ask about our free sundaes, Michelle questions if we are over 60, a flattering tribute to our youthful looks (we hope). While waiting, we review our list of Friendly’s and we have twelve more Connecticut options to visit. That will last us at least a year!

 I order honey BBQ chicken melt on brioche, the lunch Cherry liked last time, while she gets a fishamajig supermelt. Big portions and I am filled instantly. But, wait! There’s still a sundae coming. We both try the new Cherry Magnolia: black cherry chocolate chunk ice cream, brownie pieces, and hot fudge topped with whipped topping, a cherry, and chocolate chips. Excellent. But, boy, I am full.

And, boy, I am still full!





“Blew” Monday

17 01 2017

jan-calendar-2017

January 17, 2017

I recently learned that the third Monday in January is touted as the most depressing day in the Northern Hemisphere. I guess that could serve as a warning for those of us prone to such emotions. On the other hand, would that cause its development via the placebo effect—thinking about the possibility might cause it to happen?

This year (and maybe most years?), Blue Monday, as it is whimsically named, falls on the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday. I could see where the pressing need of protecting all the human rights gained since the 1960s might cause some angst. But is there more to it? Is there something intrinsic about mid-January that gets to us?

When I did some research, I discovered that the term and the phenomenon were, in fact, a public relations firm’s concoction. Based on some fancy-looking but illogical mathematical formula that includes factors such as debt, weather, days since Christmas, and proximity to New Year’s resolutions, the firm attempted to predict when to encourage travel to increase vacation sales. If a travel agency could time its promotions to tap into people’s time of great discontent, it might hit the jackpot!

athina-day-1-031-we-come-in-peace-agora

Since 2000, I’ve traveled internationally with two friends and we regularly go in January! However, this has much more to do with our schedules than with Blue Monday. One of us is a professor with its typical vacation times. I love summer at home and won’t travel then. Our third partner will do pretty much what everyone else needs. Overall, we have been to eleven countries in January and four in March. I assure you that Europe in January is not prime time for sightseeing. However, we did have a lovely time in Cardiff, Wales, home of the originator of the Blue Monday formula (Wales was in March, just sayin’).

But, back to Blue Monday. The public relations firm responsible for this moniker, according to Wikipedia, was Porter Novelli. I start to wonder about the credibility of any other of their PR campaigns. Among their clients have been the Peace Corps, National Institutes for Health (where they designed both the old and newer Food Pyramids), the FDIC, and more recently Indiana’s former governor/vice-president elect Mike Pence, who hired the firm after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to improve Indiana’s image. Who knew that Blue Monday had political overtones? If I were more of a suspicious person, I might wonder if the revival of the Blue Monday pseudo-phenomenon was a ploy to maneuver the masses.

Well, I don’t know about you, but, for me, Blue Monday blew by and it was fine.





I Have a Cold

7 01 2017

waste-basket-of-tissues

January 7, 2017

I have a cold. I hate having a cold. Mine always incapacitate me for a week and it amazes me that a so much time can disappear from action in this way. Then I think about the fact that it will be over, and not everyone can say that about their health issues. So I try to accept.

new-years-sunrise

We are in a new year, 2017, and the first sunrise was spectacular. I want—no, I desperately want that to indicate the start to an amazing year. I wasn’t thrilled with 2016 and I need better. I have chosen FREEDOM as my word for 2017 – personal, local, national, global. Not the kind of wild irresponsible behavior at Mardi Gras, say, but the type that encourages decisions from a central core that is based on higher good.

white-throated-sparrow-at-window-sillWe are expecting snow, so I (in my slippers and PJs) manage to put out bird seed. I enjoy watching and listening to birds nourishing themselves from my small generosity. I place some seed on a window sill near my laptop and I am always thrilled by the stark white chin and yellow eye patch of the white-throated sparrow and the perky crest of the female cardinal who is apparently a slight bit nervous about being this close to civilization.

2017. I vow to surround myself with positivity, look for love (not fear), optimism (not negativity). I am self-sufficient enough to be able to select my environment and those who participate with me, and move gently and lovingly away from those who just don’t want to go there.

curry-bowlLunch time, and I open the fridge to see Clam Chowder (brought last night by a former coworker), Seafood Curry (given by a neighbor whose mother is slowly but consistently sinking into Parkinson’s), Black-eyed Pea Soup (one of the few joint cooking project with my partner), and Carrot/Cauliflower Curry (given by a book discussion group member whose dear husband is battling debilitating back pain). I feel the tangible love that these people, many of whom have their own serious personal crises right now, have brought to nourish and support me.

I am house-bound by the snow and my cold, but I am not alone. With the physical evidence of food and a email inbox filled with support and caring, I know I am connected to others. Perhaps right now, I am more on the receiving end, but I am also trying to put myself in each person’s shoes and respond appropriately. Oh, and there’s Ramos the cat here with me, too.

That is my 2017 plan: sign up to do only those things that are right for me; share and receive Love, choose healthy over dysfunctional. I’ll keep you posted.