Morning Fog

We always reserve the same campsite, our home away from home. There is comfort in knowing what to expect, where the fire pit and hook-ups are located, and how we need to back in. It may not be adventurous, but since we only go for two days, the familiarity helps us relax and enjoy the time.

As the seasons change, the campsite also changes. How the sun hits the camper at high noon, which shades need to be closed to keep the sun out, how green the trees and shrubs are to block our view of neighboring campsites. And this morning, there is something new. Stepping out of the camper, I don’t notice it, but turning to walk down the hill to the bathhouse, a light layer of fog is visible, beginning about 15 feet above the ground. It doesn’t block out things out, just gives a misty haze to the trees and the rays of sunlight streaming through. 

It is quiet this morning. The only sounds are cars and trucks on nearby roads, planes flying overhead, and birds chirping up in the trees. The fog adds to the stillness.

It is chilly out, so I sit by the dying campfire. Plenty of heat still radiates off the wood, so my front is warm while my back is cool. I move my chair closer, and lean in, feeling the sting of the intense heat on my face.

A wiff of food cooking reaches my nose, and I realize I am hungry. A man and dog walk by, and I hear camper doors open and close. The sun is rising higher in the sky, burning off the fog as it does. It is time to gather what I need to prepare breakfast. It is time to begin the day.

 

Reading Banned and Challenged Books

My senior year in high school, we were assigned to read The Canterbury Tales in English class. Mrs. Hendrix, our teacher, handed out our copies and a list of Tales we could choose to read from. Among these were The Knight’s Tale, The Wife of Bath’s Tale, and The Monk’s Tale; in other words, the tales that were more virtuous, the tales that would teach us values. Then she told us we were absolutely, positively NOT to read those that were not on the list. You know, the vulgar ones like The Miller’s Tale.

It was a brilliant move. Being typical teenagers, we immediately began reading those that were “banned”. We may have thought we were getting away with something; who would know if we read the ones we were not supposed to? As a result, we read at least twice as much as we were assigned. And of course, that was why she so vocally told us not to.

Eighteen years later I am living in England. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is published, followed by the Muslim outrage over its content. It was when the Ayatollah issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie that I really took notice. There were protests outside British bookstores, book burnings were held, and even bombings of bookstores. I wanted to read the book, to see what all the fuss was about for myself. And to be a bit rebellious.

The act of challenging or banning books removes them from access, often before many people become aware of them. This is why shining a light on titles that have been banned or challenged is so important. Get the word out so people are aware of books that are published, but which they don’t have easy access to. Let them know that someone, somewhere thought the books were inappropriate and therefore made sure that NO ONE would be able to read them.

We need to make some noise about the books that are challenged and banned, and not just during one week in September. We need to be more vocal all the time. Remind people that there is still a danger that they cannot read what they want because books continue to be challenged and banned. Remind them of all the books that are on the list of banned books, maybe even ones they thought they’d like to read. Remind them to get a copy and read and decide for themselves what they think of it. Remind them to act like rebellious teenagers.

In that spirit, I am going to do what I did not do in 1988. I am going to finally read The Satanic Verses. I hope you will join me. What banned book have you been meaning to read, but not gotten around to? Why not read it now?

The Night After – Reflections on Hurricane Irma

I lay in bed and relax. The window air conditioner hums away its white noise while a movie plays on the TV. These are the usual before bed sounds, but tonight, they seem very quiet.

The night before, the worst of Hurricane Irma was arriving. I went to bed to try and get some sleep, exhausted after days of preparing and worrying and watching the projected path and waiting. Lying in bed I could hear the howl of the wind above the drone of the air conditioner. The branches of the potted palm secured just outside our east bedroom window scraped and scratched against the air conditioner.

I took a few deep breaths, slowly inhaling and exhaling, to occupy my mind and relax my body. Just as I’d get comfortable, the wind would gust louder than before, and I’m reminded of what is going on outside.

I did sleep, but lightly, waking often. Sometime during the night I noticed a change. The avocado tree outside our south bedroom window was brushing across the bars and boards that protected the old, not hurricane-proof, glass. This meant the wind was shifting from the east to the south-east and the south. Irma was passing, but there were still hours of wind to go. I got up, knowing that I could sleep later.

And now it is the night after. The air conditioner and TV are on, as usual, but tonight the bedroom is calm and quiet. I lay in bed and smile. I am happy. Not the jump-for-joy kind of happy, but the quiet, relieved happy of having come through the storm relatively unscathed. Eveything is good in my world. Tonight I sleep a deep sleep of rest and comfort.

#Eclipse2017

I first heard about this year’s total eclipse from on a TV commercial. “I’ll have to watch that,” I thought. Later, I began to hear where the band of totality was going to be. We weren’t in it, but would be close enough to witness changes. As the day neared, excitement was growing, both in the media coverage and in me. I thought about getting eclipse glasses, but by now supplies were running out. Even with them I still wasn’t sure I’d take a look. After having cataract and LASIK surgery on both eyes last year, I did not want to do anything that might damage my eyes. Maybe I would do what I’d done in grade school during a partial eclipse – put a hole in a piece of paper and let the light shine through that onto the ground.

But I am trying to be more mindful, to live in the present moment, to really take notice of all that happens around me. I decided that instead of looking UP like everyone else, I’d look AROUND and notice how the earth was changing. How different would my yard look? Would the temperature cool noticeably? Would animals behave differently?

View as the elcipse began

As the eclipse began, I went outside and took pictures. I wanted to create a picture story of what I experienced. Coverage on the TV was showing what people in the path of totality were experiencing, and while I knew we would not get that, I was excited and curious to see what we would get. Every 10 minutes or so, I’d go back out to see what was happening. About 90 minutes after the start, we reached the greatest coverage.

 

I was disappointed.

 

There were noticeable changes but they were subtle. There was still plenty of sunlight casting overhead shadows on all objects. The light was different, but my phone’s camera couldn’t capture it. I wanted to describe it as if a cloud was blocking some of the light, but that wasn’t right either. It might have been compared to dusk, when you can

View at greatest coverage. Hard to notice any changes.

still see easily, yet it was coming from overhead and casting very short shadows. Not like the long shadows of evening at all. The temperature only dropped about 3 degrees F. A cooling breeze was noticeable, and this wasn’t the typical sea breeze we get in the afternoon. The birds were no where to be seen, and the lizards that normally run around our garden and patio were still there.

I consciously chose to do things different from most people. I wasn’t traveling to be in totality; I wasn’t going to use eclipse glasses. I was instead going to focus on what went on around me, and record my observations. A different way to experience the eclipse. And it was boring.

I didn’t have this great experience of observing nature. I didn’t have a great story to share. Changes were subtle and I couldn’t find the words to describe it. The photos weren’t showing what I was experiencing. I second-guessed my decision not to get eclipse glasses so I could have at least watched the moon pass across the sun. If I had seen the partial eclipse, I could have at least experienced – and talked about – that.

As I tried to stay present, I suddenly realized something. Although it was mid-afternoon, I didn’t need my sunglasses to walk around outside. I wasn’t squinting at all. Even on cloudy days, I often need them because of the glare. While that may not mean much to many people, to me it was extraordinary.

The minutes passed and more of the sun was exposed again. Light began returning to what it had been pre-eclipse. I had heard that we were to get 80% coverage, but I questioned if it was less. Back inside, I looked it up: nearly 90%. Just over 10% of the sun’s light, was shining down. This surprised me. Even from such a small part of the sun’s energy, the light and the heat were only slightly changed. A surprising reminder of the power of nature.

I wanted to have some great story to tell, a unique perspective that shed a different light (sorry about that pun) on the eclipse experience. And I had it; it wasn’t dramatic and exciting; it was a harder story to tell.

And maybe that is the point. By choosing to be present and look at the world around me, I noticed change that was small and subtle. I am left awed by the true power of the sun; even if nearly 90% of it is blocked, there is still light and heat reaching 93 million miles away.

Everyone has a story to tell. They aren’t always big and grand, and I don’t think they should be. It is in the small things, the often overlooked things, that life happens. It is also those things that can connect us and help us relate to one another. We can all share our #eclipse2017 stories, to see how our experiences were the same and how they were different. We can relate and we can learn. Perhaps that is the story that needs to be told.

What was the eclipse like for you? What did you notice? Please share your story in the comment!

A Good Start To The Day

I walked on the beach this morning. It was mostly cloudy, which was a nice change from the hot sun. At my half-way point, I turned and headed back north. The sun also started appearing from behind some clouds, and I noticed this:

A rainbow! (Sorry, it doesn’t show up very well in the photo. You really did need to be there.) What an amazing start to the day. This is why I love to be outside – you never know what is going to appear.

The rainbow has a long history of symbolism between earth and the heavens. When I see a rainbow, I feel hopeful, as if I am given a message that I am on the right track. Keep moving forward because things are going to work out!

This week has been somewhat frustrating. I’m trying to develop a planning system that works for me and all the various things I am trying to do. Such is the life of a multipotentialite! And this week was a challenge. But I kept questioning WHAT wasn’t working and HOW I could change it to work better.

And then I saw this! Yes, it has been a good day.

Hope it was the same for you!

Shedding

There are days I wish I could shed just like the cicada that left behind this skin. Well, perhaps not actually step out of my skin, but rather shed things which hold me back: my own limiting thoughts on who I am (or “should” be), how I am “supposed to” be successful at life, how “stupid” I was when I made a “bad” decision (even when “bad” led me somewhere wonderful), and whether I will ever be good enough. Thoughts that make me feel “less than” everyone else: less intelligent, less attractive, less desirable, less able.

I just want to step out of them and walk forward, leaving them behind. I cannot change the past, so I want to shed it. Move beyond them once and for all, and stop getting drawn back into old thought patterns that do me no good.

But life isn’t like that. I think the trick is to keep looking forward, to keep aiming in that direction, even when the voices in our heads are a constant babble of all the reasons why we shouldn’t. I am discovering that when I question those voices, it helps to quiet them a bit. The more often I do it, the quicker I am at catching them when they start again, and asking myself “is that really true?”

While we may not be able to shed our skin, we can do some things to symbolically shed some of our past. I encourage you to take a moment and focus on an event from your past that keeps coming up in your mind, or a message you keep telling yourself even when you know it isn’t true. Write it down or speak it out loud. If you write it, then draw a big X through it and write over it ‘NOT ANY MORE!!!!’ (or whatever symbols and words feel right). Then tear up the paper and throw it away, or burn it (in a safe manner.) If you speak it out loud, state it and then loudly add “NOT ANY MORE!!!” You can do this by yourself or in front of someone you trust. Pick what feels right for you and (to borrow a phrase from Nike) JUST DO IT!

Be warned: one time will probably not totally remove the thoughts or memory, but you will have planted some new seeds in your mind. Seeds that will sprout and grow into new thoughts. Thoughts that reflect who you are now. It is all part of the journey of life that we may need to return to the same, or similar, themes again and again. It is all just a part of shedding.

Bicycle Rides

Bicycle at the gate

Ready for a morning bicycle ride!

I bought a bicycle a couple of years ago, but after a handful of rides on the beach, it was put away. Last fall, desperate to lose weight and get off my blood pressure medicine, I began cycling through the neighborhood once or twice each week.

Over time I worked out a route going up and back down the generally flat streets, weaving a pattern through the neighborhood that kept me off the busy roads and gave me a good 30 minute ride.

I also discovered that if I rode on Monday mornings, I would have a chance to check out potential treasures left on the curb. Monday is one of our trash pick-up days, and after having a weekend to clean, declutter, and repair things, many people had things out. So with a rack and milk crate added to the back of my bicycle, I was on the hunt for things we could use or resell.

You learn some interesting things checking out the trash. And I’m not even talking about opening the bins to see what is inside; these are things sticking out or just set on the ground. One Monday I saw 4 old toilets out on the curb. They were all on different streets, but it seemed several people found they needed to replace their toilet that weekend.

I can also tell who had a party over the weekend by the beer cans/wine/liquor bottles in the recycling. I can tell who has moved out – or who is about to.

And the amount of furniture put out is amazing. You could easily furninsh a house in a couple of months as long as you didn’t mind beat up, damaged pieces, or had the time and talent to revitalize them. Much of it is made of particle board and through use, abuse and sitting outside it is unusable.

I read a statement in a book recently that is making me take a different look at my morning rides. The idea is that people have the ability to become invisible because most people don’t see what is right around them because they don’t really look. They don’t try to notice what is nearby. Although the book is fiction, I think there is a lot of truth in the statement.

So how much do I notice on my rides? Aside from what trash is being put out, here’s been some observations:

  • A couple of houses that have window air conditioners running. Based on the sputtering, clanking sounds that I heard, I’m not sure how much longer either is going to be functioning.
  • Cats. There are cats in yards, cats crossing the street, cats laying on sidewalks and even in the street. Most hardly notice me. Generally the dogs I see are being walked on a leash, but this week I saw one sitting on the front porch. Well, I noticed it when it barked at me, but it didn’t even stand up. When I rode back down the other side of the street, it didn’t even bark.
  • And then there was the morning a couple of weeks ago when I rounded the corner to see one cat in the street, hunched down and staring at another cat. As I approached, the 2nd cat turned to move under a car parked at the curb, and I realized it wasn’t a cat at all. It was a possum. He sat still under the car as I rode by, which distracted the other cat and sent it back to the other side of the street.

Mostly my attention has been on two things: the cars moving through the streets, especially those backing out of driveways, and trying to eyeball interesting things in the trash. The first is for my safety; the second to provide some additional income.

But I want to become more aware of what is actually around me. Are there people sitting on porches watching me? Is there a different car in front of a house? Why do some streets seem to always have a lot of trash worth looking through while others never do? All questions to be considered on future rides.