August Fades

The clouds overhead today floated in a brilliant light tone of prussian blue sky. At the start of day the clouds were muted but as the sun moved across the sky to flare the blue to a vibrant pastel the clouds burned white. Now, as the sun sets the edge of all the clouds is neon rayed. Like the last days of summer, for a few lingering moments the intensity of smudged color hangs in the air.

long shadows moving on summer lawn

The sky is shifting. Grays in multitude of shades hang in the silver air. Seasons shift. Lights shift. Colors shift in this period between seasons.

I mowed my lawn today with my wonky, cartoon-wheeled lawn mower. The axel is bent on all of the wheels so they roll around at various positions of 45 % angles. It works. It cuts the grass. And it didn’t cost me much. The green kingdom with its six mum plants and the last two roses waving their orange flag looks orderly. The care and attention I put into my lawn is easy to see.

I have trimmed back the lavender bushes so that a body can pass up my walkway to the front door without having to kick back the seedy stem heads. All that was trimmed, I am placing in net bags to give to friends. Their purpose is to promote tranquility.

Squeezing the bag causes the air to fill with the memory of the purple blossoms swarming with bees in the warm air of summer. The pollinating, the creating of blossoms are instantly recalled as the thumb sinks into the tiny pillow of dried plants.

I love summer and inevitably go through a kind of reluctant farewell to the heat and brilliant colors. There is sadness in the chill air after sundown.

The beginning of summer always holds promise. This year I will play more. This year I will find the loved one. This year I will be the carefree child creature I am at core.

As the promise of summer passes away, I recall which promises I have kept to myself.

being aware t

my choices help to create who I am

I have gotten the yard in shape; painted the fences; painted the deck; renovated the kitchen; dug up and replanted my garden beds; gone to school in Boulder, Colorado where I earned an A on my M.F.A. course; maintained my commitment to body building; connected with new people in order to build friendships. My nearly 4 thousand kilometer trip from Kelowna to Boulder, Colorado; on to Denver, Colorado; visiting Portland, Oregon and returning home was out of my comfort zone and an accomplishment.

However within myself, I have carried with me a certain sadness that has been there most of my life. Some days it is active and pressing on me. Others I just ignore it by getting busy and moving toward my goals. Feelings of not being safe when I was young, not being loved are smaller and less insistent.

Roses my neighbour bought for my birthday

What I have learned in this last year is to ask for help. I am going out the door more often to be in the company of friends. I stay calm in difficult situations and can solve what needs to be solved without drama.

My body is healthier. My outlook is more optimistic. I am finding it much easier to understand what is happening when negative emotions arise. It is very rarely that I find myself justifying my behaviour or condemning myself for a stupid error.

Body building, eating well and eight hours of sleep

What has helped me the most in my journey is the idea of no story. Things just happen. The sun has set. The sky is now edging turquoise to navy blue clouds. It just is.

companionship in the falling light

I am proud of myself for not sinking down into distracting negative behaviors to deal with emotions which come up. I have seen what drinking alcohol does to the mind, to the ego, to the personality. I have observed my financial tail spin when I tried to buy my way out of distress. So standing emotionally “undressed” in the wind of what is, is my choice. Ultimately, it is easier.

Why did that happen? Why did the relationships not work out? Why am I feeling stuck or lost in a particular moment? It just is. When the cold water of the lake is moving up my ankles and then drawing back again, I watch the movement and feel the temperature and texture. It just is.

We all have our own lessons. We are like children sitting in school with a worksheet, head resting on a hand. It is hard, so hard that we stick out our tongues, we hold the pencil awkwardly. We try an answer. We hope.

May you continue to dance through the autumn with a smile upon your face.

Golden Girl and Golden Buddha on to Portland

Some moments driving the flat lands were dramatic. The heavy rainstorm that obliterated my view as the side winds whipped the semi-trucks around as I passed was what I remember most. The knowing that every journey will not be of a piece is helpful in these moments. The dreadful, frightening weather will not be perpetual. The obstructed mountain pass will not be eternal. Every moment begins and ends.

In Portland where I was born, I always feel at home. The mix of buildings from the 1880’s and 1920’s with contemporary towers is fascinating. Trains cross the town and free transit will take a visitor throughout the downtown core for free.

My favorite thrift shop is Buffalo Exchange just across from Powell’s Books. The lectures and cultural events that are hosted in Powell’s makes it a hub for meeting people in the arts.

I recently read an article which stated that the Willamette River which was notorious for pollution has been the focus of a clean up campaign. It is now suitable for swimming.

There is a real feeling of leisure in the city. People do not push pass you or pound the pavement. Most stop to engage in conversation along the sidewalk.

One thing I noticed in most of my travels was the willingness of complete strangers to engage in a conversation. It made me feel at home because well basically it is where I was born. The gregarious and curious nature of Americans is frequently seen as nosey by British Columbians. I made note.

Returning home was difficult. The adventure was over. I had a yard, a garden, weeds to attend to. How could I find new experiences in a town I have lived in for over 20 years and a place I have lived in for over 30 years? It is a challenge.

For now, my birthday is coming up and I am practicing gratitude for what I have. The handy man is coming in to finish the kitchen which was left with holes in the wall and ceiling. It will be another large debt on my line of credit. But it will mean the list of tasks is done.

Once my knee is operated on to have the torn meniscus vacuummed out from between the joints I am clear of all I have been waiting for. Do I stay here, sitting like a broody hen on my line of credit debt or do I find a destination?

Step by step. I am working on my body, on my blog and I have my first you tube posting of me reading my poetry.

I am praying for guidance and a sense of certainty. I am asking for purpose and passion and prosperity to re-enter my life.

And I bought a sequin animal print H & M swimming suit at a thrift shop in Kelowna. Now that is a good sign.

May you dance joyfully even while waiting for the music to appear.

Naropa and on to Denver

The Master of Fine Arts students had two days to complete a written response and submit a manuscript of the works that they created during the intensive week of study. I selected to begin as soon as classes were over on the Saturday night. By persistence, I had the assignment complete before the 1 pm Sunday check out from the Snow Lions.

Vernon reading with sound support from rest of class.

What fascinates me is how efficient I am under stress and how when there is no hard deadline, or imminent show looming like a shadow being in my direct sight line, I tend to sink. I sink into the little, daily rituals of cleaning, looking on face book, repeatedly expecting my email to bring a personal or human spark in my dull existence.

A psychic once told me that I make progress from stone to stone but at times I just sit down and look at the river in despair imagining that I will never make it across. Was this a polite way of saying my manic depression is mild?

I finished the assignment; hit send; packed the car and headed to Denver. I don’t know why but I was feeling pretty challenged by the highway and the traffic at this point. I can always tell when I am beyond my comfort zone because that is when I start talking to myself. “Are you sure this is the correct turn?” Or I talk to others who cannot hear me. “Move over buddy. I need to get in that lane. What is your hurry for pete sake, it is Sunday afternoon?”

fire makes a beautiful sun set

I wound around my brother’s neighbourhood not quite getting where his house was. Finally, after three loops I drove up. It was only when I was upstairs with my baggage in the room that it hit me exactly how tired I was. The long drive to Boulder. Everything new. Not being around objects and places I had lived with for over 20 years was a stretch. It was good for me. It was a full on challenge when I hadn’t been in a challenging situation in terms of work since 1999. Plumpt. I sat down.

well groomed neighbourhoods in Parker, distant hills, tangible sky

My sister in law arrived the next day and I spent my days cleaning up and sharpening my pictures and posting them on facebook. I went for an hour walk every day and worked out every day. In the evening, she and I watched chick flicks and would exclaim to one another when we saw a cute purse, a fun dress or awe inspiring shoes. Our focus was on the fashion and the romance. It has been years since I had seen a girly movie with a friend and talked about what we were viewing. The altitude sickness was definitely effecting me.

benches in outdoor mall, art everywhere.

One day I took the train into Denver and was again swept up in the sharp, vibrant masculine energy of the place. I shopped a bit but I found that I am losing interest in spending my time shopping. Last time I was in Denver I walked the entire town and went to the State building, the art museum, and sat in a Catholic Church to pray. I was still bleeding grief. But this time, my body was tired from lack of sleep, unaccustomed stimulus and long drives. So I found The Tattered Cover Book Store and was home. I felt like I could live in that book store. Is it wrong to choose a place to live based on its book store?

Some places just feel “right”. Hand written signs above books.

sit, read, take your time. old couches all around.

I fell in with a guide who was giving a tour of the city. I asked if I could eavesdrop and he said, “For only a little while.” So I set my watch in my head for “little while.”

This is the new financial district. Glass towers $400 for 600 square feet. In Vancouver, B.C. it is a million for 600 square feet.

He explained that the new “downtown” of the city was under construction. The outdoor mall that cut through the city was being extended. The glass towers that he pointed out were $400 grand for 600 square feet and sold out in a few weeks after they were put on sale.

One of my favorite pieces… the dancer.

In the future, the train station would have mass transport taking people to and from the airport to downtown whereby they could get on another train, take the free service throughout the downtown or jump off and walk or ride a bike all the way across the river. He pointed out of sight. Over there he indicated through the construction site. He informed us that they were already a year ahead of the target date of 2016 and if things kept going that well estimates were that this new more user friendly downtown to burb hub would be done as early as 2014. The city is vibrant.

donated pianos along outdoor mall. painted by artists. people practice here. I heard classical music as I walked.

big city, financial district but keeps heritage buildings

Back in the car, the next drives were long.

The horizon and my friend the semi-truck.

I drove 14 hours one day and 12 another. In Vancouver, Washington where I had grown up, I stayed in a motel across for the one that was in my other life. When my mother was dying, I drove down and camped out in the Extended Stay. When my step-father was dying, I was there as well because it was close to my childhood home and to the hospital. Now I couldn’t afford such a luxury place since the financial settlement from my divorce. I can definitely delineate between a lower middle class motel, a middle class motel and the $50 a night places I was lucky enough to get on this trip.

Middle class:

towels are thick and the floor mat and towels look different from one another
there is a coffee maker
the bed spread is made of fabric and not plastic spun from orange fruit bags
all of the lights work on the first try
the heat and air conditioning does not sound like a super jet landing
there is a steel stopper in the bathtub that allows it to fill up (rubber stopper is lower middle class and no stopper is to discourage you from using the bathtub at all to save money. I found a prescription bottle cap works fine for this)
there are shampoos, creams, soaps in bottles not in two squirt plastic sleeves
the Bible is not out in an obvious place but discreetly tucked away

I booked the hotel for two nights because I arrived very late. Again I was lost. It was almost 9:30 and I circled a few times then asked a couple of young men at a Kiosk Coffee place for directions. Again the magic phone came out. He pointed the way for me. Laughing, I told him the story of the Chucky Cheese Angel He offered me a free large mango drink so that ,” I can be the bigger angel.” Men are so competitive. I gratefully took my directions and my large cold mango drink and found my hotel.

The next day I, in my usual manner, went for the 10 minute drive to downtown Portland and ended up driving for almost an hour. The bonus was that I saw a section of Portland that I had never seen before. The older houses with beautiful, copious drappings of green plants, tree limbs and vines stood along the curving road on both sides and spoke of a history that extended into the 1800’s. It was spectacular. I parked once in what I thought was a lot but then could see was private. I got out of the car once and went into a dealership of automobiles and was told I was in the wrong part of town. So eventually, I got into a parkade about a block from Powell’s Books.

What did I learn about the experience? I learned (again) that when I am very tired I become disoriented and have difficulty finding my way. Perhaps it was the early chaotic environment in which I spent my childhood. But the way for clarity and quelling confusion for me is to be fully rested. Being lost is not just a physical result. There have been times I have lost my sense of where I stood emotionally and spiritually. The work that I did on this journey was to understand when I was lost, to realize that my assessment of how well I was functioning was in error and then to calm myself down. I knew I could not starve to death, drive until I was out of gas and end up on a deserted planet far far away. (Worst case scenario.)

Walking in Portland is always a treat. First I went to Buffalo Exchange and tried on many, many items of clothing. Next I went to Powell’s Books and read a few books in the coffee room. Stump Town Coffee called me. Up the street from Powell’s is a hotel with Stump Town Coffee, a large reading room with a huge, low table at the centre and couches around it. It provides people with the opportunity to sit face to face and encourages conversation. As I was standing in line, I saw a business man wearing the shoe gloves that fit over each toe like a glove on a person’s hand. I asked him if they were comfortable. His friend looked down and said, “I didn’t even notice them.” We all laughed because they are screamingly obvious.

I was so excited about being in Portland that I started to riff. I suggested he get foot gloves with press on nails for women. I suggested ankle chains, toe rings. Oh I just started…. His friend said he thought those were great ideas so I made them both pledge to not steal the ideas. That was the first conversation I had had with another person for three days and was I ever “parched” for words.

Meandering was the theme. This time I was not driven as was my last visit to Portland. I couldn’t seem to find my way down to the linear park along the river but did stumble on an art gallery, a nice restaurant and discovered another park I had never seen before. My body was tired so I headed back to Powell’s and read books again for four more hours. Walking upstairs to put my books back, I found that a speaker was about to begin.

Evil Knievel Days

The writer was an English teacher from Lewis and Clark college was a PhD from Standford. He was modest, shy and had gathered around him on the floor a flock of fascinated students. The blocks and barriers that I have created in my life became so obvious. Why did he have the self esteem to push through and get his advanced degree. He had won prizes for his short stories. This was his second novel. What had I been doing? Cleaning. Weeding. Waiting. I was both inspired and tired after the reading.

The illusion of time running out has always been with me but because I am about to turn 68, there is a sharpness to that vision now. What have I actually done in my life that I set out to do? It churns in my brain.

In Parker, a tree with smiling roots.

Such a small, careful life that has left me open for incredible damage. The safe choices I would tell myself. But they weren’t safe. They were triple blind studies. Not seeing why I chose alcoholics. Not seeing why I refused to make large moves. Not seeing why I isolated myself. All the time I churn around in the bay in my tug boat, I dreamed of heading out to sea. To see.

sky along the Coquihalla as I returned home.

When I returned home after a 13 hour drive, I felt a let down. Back to the same routine. Back to the small haven. Always my brain talks to me about how lucky I should feel. I am radiantly healthy. I have good friends. My children are both alive and have families. But where is the juice?

If impatience could be a rash, I would be red all over. Next. The next thing. The sense of walking through a door. But I want it to be safe. I want the door to be open so I don’t bang my head. Is that too much to ask, universe?