Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eyes Breaking

I have seen heartache. I have seen terror. I have seen hopelessness. I have seen vacant. I have seen blindness. I have seen death with eyes open. I have seen the agony of defeat. I had never seen eyes break.

Love heals a heart. Light expels the terror. Belief lessens hopelessness leaving hope. Blindness reveals other senses and sight. Death but opens a new vision. Defeat can propel victory. What happens to eyes when they break?

Did Siddhārtha Gautama’s eyes break when he left the castle? When he stepped outside the walls of comfort, protectiveness, and predetermination he was not prepared. When, for the first time, he saw heartache, terror, hopelessness, vacancy, blindness, death and defeat did his eyes break? When he felt them break did he gasp? When he gasped did he awaken to the power of breath?

Is that the cycle? The pain of eyes breaking causes you to gasp. In gasping you find the key to awakening. But what happens if you get stuck and can’t quite get to the awakening part? You breathe.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kick Start

I remember the first time I rode a motorcycle. A friend had purchased a Yamaha 360. We went to a bank parking lot to check it out. Like a parent teaching a child to ride a bike they ran along side of me as I “zoomed” around in first gear. I never got out of first gear. I rode for an entire ten minutes max before surrendering the bike. That was it. Really, that was it. After my in-depth lesson we went riding along the coast line watching the sunset on the Gulf.

The next morning, sitting in the apartment alone, as I am dangerously prone to do, I started to ponder the wonderful feeling, sitting on the back of the motorcycle, zooming along the coast. And, as you may have anticipated, I decided to go for a spin. Helmet on, key in hand I hopped on the motorcycle repeating over and over the gear sequence. I tilted the bike so one of my short legs could reach the ground while my other leg smashed down on the kick start. Oh my gosh, it started. There I sat, straddling a motorcycle that was running. Looking around to see if anyone noticed, I almost fogged the helmet’s shield with my laughter. I pushed myself out of the driveway into the street and off I went for a six hour drive, round trip, along the coast line. And no, I did not stay in first gear.

That experience could take up twenty blogs, but one very tactile and emotional memory has stuck with me over the decades. It was a simple epiphany, not exactly a spiritual awakening, but an awakening nevertheless. Riding on the motorcycle I became part of the scenery. I was the wind. I was crashing into the sunlight. I felt the highway. No longer was I watching “TV” through a car window, with your view framed by the shape of the windows. No, me - very analytical, thinks things through, and the label “risk taker” would stick to me about as well as a Post-It on an ice cube - heard the call of adventure, surrender and a touch of fun and answered “yes.” In answering yes, I stepped out of myself and became the call itself.

The keys, upon my return, were put out of my reach. A few short months later, I came home to find my very own motorcycle. After a few more coastal sunset spins we set off for almost a four month journey across the US. For four months I was the horizon, the road, the wind and the rain. I understood why dogs have to hang their heads out the window. And it all started with a simple, “hmm” and the willingness to see the call as greater than my fears.

Some days, I fear age and common sense have caused a bit of hearing loss in my ears. But let me see a motorcyclist riding down the freeway and the rider’s head is turning to take in the scenery and ....

No desire to ride again, I learned the lesson. Now, I just need to remember the kick start so I do not forget.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Poet's Gift

The clouds gather slowly, first in pairs of scouts sent out front of the armies amassing in the rear of the front. You can hear the rumbling of the chariots. The sky grows tinted with the billowing dark dust of the horses as they strain against their harnesses. Their etched muscular bodies, white with sweat, every sinew exposed, race frantically trying to be free of the weight that is restraining and chasing them. As they draw nearer the tinted sky grows darker. The energy seems to collide and roll over itself gathering all in its path like a rolling tympani in a syncopated beat overshadowing the woodwinds and the brass. The darkness, like paper, is torn by the flash of Arthurian swords lifted and clashed sending streaks of sparks tearing across the blackened sky.

The armies collide, pressure and force against pressure and force. One must be strong to wield such a sword and stand face to face with your own fear, mortality, hopes and destiny amidst the noise and screams of battle. Your neck becomes a swivel and your arms no longer have bones as they twist and turn to meet every blow struck against you. Your shield cuts into your hand and forearm as you deflect the blows. Your ears no longer hear the sounds of battle, long deafened by the sound of trumpets, metal against metal, and, perhaps, your own cries of fear and victory.

Suddenly a trumpet in the distance is heard. Or, is it a flute? You stand poised for yet another blow. In the midst of the orange dust of battle, you look up and see the blue you know. The clouds have passed and the blue sky above you looks like a lake shimmering and beckoning. You drop your arms, your sword and shield. You stand, with your back slightly arched, head tilted staring at the lake, the sky. Your body releases its hold of reality. You fall into the lake above you, feeling the water crash against your skin, the force of your plunge cleansing all signs of battle. Your momentum carries you deeper. At last your body slows and your hands and feet can feel what is either the bottom or just a shelf. You can breathe in this lake. You can see everything in this lake. Laughter erupts from your heart sending currents throughout the sky. Those unreleased and still in the field of battle, think more thunder is heard. You see the treasure that was waiting for you. Grasping it in your hand, you stretch your arms upward and thrust your body through the lake, the sky, and return to earth.

Celtic, ancient and modern songs of dance break out upon your return. With the motion and joy of one throwing rose petals into the wind you set free your treasure. The winds of battles, still raging, carry the gifts like little kisses which lay themselves upon the shields and swords of those still in battle. Your gift, claimed with your own sacrifice, quiets the battles within our own souls, calling us to likewise come and dive into the lake, the sky, and answer our own calling.

Time and distance forbid we know you. Yet through your gift we meet another, ourselves.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Forks in the Road and Rivers

Robert Frost immortalized the fork in the road. Two paths confront the traveler leading, supposedly, to two different journeys and destinations. Some would hold that the two are really one if you see beyond the grass and trees that separate them. Others would offer that there are many more paths which are overgrown and require more effort-we tend to focus on the obvious. And them some would muse that it is not the path that matters, only the journey so why bother naming the paths. Whatever philosophical or spiritual metaphor you choose, the thought of paths beckons our imagination.

Love, on the other hand, enters our hearts unnamed, unnoticed often without a path. Love takes on the names of those who touch our vulnerability, our needs and our hopes. Their presence, like the ocean’s gravity, summons and draws the rivers of our souls. The rivers of our talents, weaknesses, our best and our worst are beckoned home to the ocean through paths cut into the earth. It relents not until all these rivers empty themselves into its vastness, its depths and open arms. Love’s ocean pulls the rivers that have overflowed their banks leaving destruction after a season’s storms. Love’s ocean pulls even the river’s last remaining trickle left after a season’s drought. The rivers think not of paths. The rivers know only the pull of gravity drawing them into the ocean. Some rivers will merge and make the journey together. Others are destined by geography to flow alone. Some rivers will flow forever parallel close, forming borders and touching only during a flood and then retreating. The end is the same. They will meet in the ocean and flow freely, no longer pulled.

And so I muse, as I am apt to do, if instead of seeing paths I saw rivers would this journey be viewed differently?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lines in the Sand

It is just a line. It is just sand. Put the two together and you have a line in the sand. Confrontation goes all in betting the hand it was dealt will beat yours. Even if you do not cross the line you have made a choice. Is the reward, the ante on the table ever worth such a risk? And should you win what next? “You’ve won.” Your opponent has nothing left to bet. Game – set - match.

I have always enjoyed coloring, still do in fact. However, I chafe at having to stay in the lines if you are coloring with someone. Sometimes you just can’t help escaping a bit. Other times, the artificial lines drawn in the coloring book just beg for a little creativity.

So what does a confrontational line in the sand have to do with coloring? Frankly, I am looking for lines and sand. Lines that will perhaps point to a destination a direction. Sand that reminds me of my oil free sanctuary, the Gulf. I’m just not looking for lines in the sand. It has been a day of lines in the sand and tornado warnings in the evening.  I think I prefer a much softer line that goes all in but instead of winning, you actually lose. You lose yourself to hope, belief and perhaps a touch of destiny. Yes, I think I prefer lines in the sky to lines in the sand. These lines are made for coloring. The decision they offer, without confrontation, but yes perhaps a storm, is hope.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

White Flags

You hear the thunder and remember the other night’s fear. Do not surrender.
You feel the knees that will not bend and you feel old. Do not surrender.
You see the calendar’s pages accumulating, time is marching fast. Do not surrender.
You hear the work phone demanding you work even more hours. Do not surrender.
You feel the weariness in your body yet more to do. Do not surrender.
You read what only seems to be news of despair and pain. Do not surrender.
You remember faces and touches of the past now gone. Do not surrender.
You drew a line in the sand, took a stand and then retreated. Do not surrender.
You remember the gun only sounds at the beginning of the race- there are no reminders to keep going except the words ‘hope,” “choice,” and “start again.” It’s only a thin ribbon at the end and you can break through that if you want to keep going. Surrender.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Waking up the Sun

I think, perchance, after the longest day of the year, the sun may have pressed the snooze alarm this morning. It is time for me to be in the shower and the first light of day is just now beginning to creep under the door of the night. Standing outside, I hear the birds echo encouragement for the weary sun which worked overtime yesterday. No blaring alarm clock for the sun. The sun is greeted by the mourning doves calling back and forth, soft clouds stroke her cheek and the gentle breeze breathes upon her face. A long day yesterday my beautiful sun. Wake gently my sun. Everyday you give me your warmth and light. I think perchance, I take that for granted. No, wake gently and when you toss your blanket of pastel colors across the bed, your sky, I shall smile ever so warm and welcome you to another day. I shall say ‘thank you.’ For now, my sleepy sun, wake gently. I get to wake you up for a change. Good morning.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Payment Rendered

If I had to pay for my words, like a pay as you go cell phone plan or vowels in Wheel of Fortune, what would I write? I am not independently wealthy, the mortgage or rent must be paid and the utilities. I do not eat much, but even that little requires payment. Would I write? If the need to write were so great that I took from one coffer to pay into this coffer, what words would I buy?  Would they be words that spoke to me now only to expire later or would they have life and never need to be purchased again? And would they be words for me alone or large enough to share with you?

As I take the crumpled bills and change out of my pocket and lay them on the counter what words will I take home to write?




Friday, June 18, 2010

White is a Color

I know the silence between the calls of two mourning doves. I know the silence when I first open my eyes in the morning and my eye lids are the only thing stirring. I know the silence of sitting with one whose body is alive but their soul is dancing in another world. I know the silence in a symphony before the final crescendo. I know the silence of the night lying on top of the day. I know the silence of trees standing in a forest and the footsteps of ants. I know the silence of nature’s breath known only by the movement of the grass. I know the silence of eyes locked into another’s speaking volumes without voice. I know the silence of wanting to be home. I know the silence of sand pipers running along the Gulf shore line. I know the silence of the sunrise. I know the silence of writing the last word of something I believe. I know the silence of sitting in a sanctuary and praying without words. I know the silence of the eye of a hurricane. I know the silence of standing at a grave. I know the silence when you’re leaving and the door has shut. I know the silence of an eclipse and a falling star. I know the silence of a butterfly’s wings and an eagle soaring.

White is not the absence of color.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Memo

I stood outside and watched wispy white clouds finger paint the blue sky. It was a warm, but still a beautiful day and the sun was quite playful. That was then-this afternoon. Now, just two hours later the evergreen trees are dancing to music with a rolling drum beat like a tympani approaching the peak of the crescendo. The sky is dark, the sun hidden behind the storm clouds and a tornado warning has been issued. An over exuberant wispy cloud must have knocked over all the finger paints and they have spilled across the sky creating a most unusual color. The evergreen trees are now black silhouettes, almost like skeletons with long spindly arms extending towards each other in their dance. The squirrels have left the bird feeder. Uh, did I miss a memo? Did someone change the channel with the remote when I was not looking, leaving me puzzled trying to figure out who these characters are and what do they have to do with my movie?

There is no danger but like a child with grand plans for the day, standing and looking out the window dripping with rain, I feel miffed. My thoughts, caught in the wind currents, roll across each other like the clouds. Look at the monitor then the trees and back to the monitor. I have headphones on and it occurs to me that the trees are dancing in rhythm with the music playing. Nature is playing, a bit rough, but is having quite the time this evening.

Part 2

There are lyrics to songs I truly get lost in but because of the music around the lyrics I am unable to enjoy their genius. Nature and seasons have a rhythm. No matter what they bring, there is a rhythm to them. I believe that. Like the music, sometimes the lyrics of nature’s frolicking have a rhythm that makes it difficult to dance or sing. Tornadoes have left destruction and death. What had been a very surreal moment watching the storms come in, quickly changed as sirens blared their danger for almost two hours.

So how does one reconcile the before and after photographs in your mind? You cannot ignore the destruction. It happened. Sometimes its unavoidable. You cannot, however, ignore the beauty of the dance before, the splendor of the visual display during and the calming colors when the storm passed. Somehow, we have to find the rhythm and the lyrics and not forsake one for the other. To remember the rhythm of the seasons. And maybe that’s the memo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Koan

“Hello. Can I help you?”
“I’m going somewhere.”
“I see that. Do you need some help?”
“I have a ticket.”
“And so you do. Do you have a name?”
“The ticket says I get to go.”
“And where are you going?”
“I don’t know. But I get to go.”
“I understand. Hmm. I see you’re all packed.”
“I packed it myself.”
“My child, is someone with you?”
“You are.”
“Ok, just a moment while I call someone in authority who can help.”
“What do you do then?”
“I thought you knew.”
“Knew what little one?”
“Where we’re going.”
“Where are you going?
“I have a ticket.”
“Yes, we’ve established that. “
“Do you have a ticket?”

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Thud, A Doughnut and a Door

Running late to work. Late is defined by the volume of work not the clock. Suddenly I remembered the safety violation I was given on Friday. The recent apocalypse at work had me so buried I forgot it was my day to bring treats. The violation was my co-workers' way of making me laugh. I promised to make good on my violation today. A screeching halt in the middle of the road, sharp left into the convenience store, all was well.

Balancing a computer bag, a backpack full of files and papers, and the doughnuts I was grateful no one witnessed my karate chop with my elbow to open the first door. Once inside I turned to my hallway door only to discover I had forgotten my badge. I was as far into the building as I would get – the entryway. No one else was at work and would not be for at least an hour. Like a child looking at their parent the first time they hear the word “no,” I stood there balancing my cargo and stared at the door. I heard a faint ‘no’ and since I was the only one in the darkened building I figured it was me. I confess, the next sound was the thud of my head against the door, and yet another ‘no.’

Taking a deep breath, I immediately went to the positive side – I had three dozen doughnuts all to myself. I turned my back to the door and began to slide down so I could sit on the floor. As I did my back, quite painfully, hit the door handle which slid down with me. Halfway through my slide my brain recycled that observation. I let inertia continue to carry me to the floor. Reaching behind me, closing my eyes, I pulled the handle down. The door wasn’t locked. Someone must have been in and turned the alarm off and gone into the plant. Sitting on the floor surrounded by my stuff, I opened a box of doughnuts and began to munch on one. I laughed as I looked around, licking my fingers, and thought about a door behind me that was not locked. No badge, key or magic combination needed, it was opened. Doughnut consumed, I went through the door.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No Ordinary Day

To know the click of latches as the case closes upon the bugle. To know the silence of armor hanging on a nail. To know the beating of the blacksmith’s hammer forging the sword into a plowshare. To hear the bleating of the lamb as it folds it legs and lies next to the lion. To hear the dove’s wings as she returns with a sprig of green to tell of the flood’s end. To look up and see naught but the rainbow. To know an ordinary day.

The sound of the alarm awakens my mind but the voice of Love calls to my heart. She may not herself be completely awake. In her waking she whispers, “I love you. Look not to what is not nor listen for the sounds that are silent. Feel my breath upon your cheek. Take my hand and lean into me. Let us dance a dervish with Life. Those sounds you would silence are but a whisper to my voice. Good morning Beth, come dance with me.”

Why would I wish an ordinary day when the voice of Love offers nothing less than extraordinary?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Good Vibrations

I would imagine there is at least one song that physically takes you back to a time and place so real you can smell it, touch it and feel it. You probably remember every detail better than you can remember what you had for breakfast this morning. What is this power of music that allows it to embed itself in our senses? The crescendos can reach into our chests and lift us to the heavens. The ominous rumblings of the deep dark notes and drums grow in intensity and smash into the woodwinds creating an ethereal harmony. The chorus of the song disrobes the singer’s heart so that it falls, like a robe, to the floor. Every emotional nerve in us explodes.

We respond with uncontrolled laughter, the desire to dance, the need to cry or overwhelming heartache, love or belief. The volume is cranked up. Our fingers beat or caress the steering wheel. We suddenly move like a dancer as we walk or we pump our fists in the air when those songs crawl into us. Like diamonds on a necklace, little snippets of songs stay with us. Their shimmers appear unexpectedly to take us back to that moment in time, where we became the score upon which music became alive.

Music, the notes we hear, are actually mathematically measured and created sounds or vibrations. If you looked at their essence, they would appear cold and almost numbing. What happens? How do we go from a cold mathematical formula to the stripping of all our shields? We ignore the math and physics and dance, laugh, cry, cheer, love, and even do a head bounce in the car or link arms with strangers.

The formulas of music, the tones we hear, describe their vibrations. Could it be the vibration upon our hearts unlocks the doors to our souls and senses inviting the music in? When I think of all the vibrations that collide with me during the day, I wonder why music’s vibrations resonate so differently. Maybe it is as simple as listening. The world’s vibrations are uninvited. Music is a guest whose voice I listen for no matter where I am. I hear music and something inside pauses to see if I know the song. Or, even when I’m not listening, I sometimes find myself humming with the piped in music. I choose the vibrations I listen to and I am transformed. I choose the vibrations I listen to and my mood changes. I choose the vibrations I listen to and, well, I listen and I am in tune.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Louie Munro-Michell's Letter to Louie at Ten

I ever so enjoy the whimsical smiles that life bestows upon us. I received an email from Louie who expressed his interest in Hope's Breath. He was curious if we could exchange posts on each other's blog. Ever the curious one, I zapped right over to Enlightenment for the Common Soul and spent the most delightful, dare I say grand, time reading, giggling and thinking wow, what vision. Louie's observations are relentlessly full of hope, optimism and honesty, or I could just say hope.

How could I refuse such fun! The quest - to write a letter to ourselves at the age of 10. And so, I introduce you to Louie Munro-Michell, across the pond (London), across generations and across gender as we both write letters to ourselves at the age of 10. To quote Louie, "From Louie's Mind to Yours".... enjoy! You will find my letter on Enlightenment for the Common Soul
My Dearest Louie;

Well you’re 10 years old today. A big boy now! Congratulations!!!

You may not know me but believe me when i say i think of you all the time and I have so much to thank you for, however I don’t think you will know what you have taught me yet.

Over the next few years you will have a lot of hard times and I just wanted you to know, that whenever you feel like it’s too much I’ll always be here waiting for you. After all you’re my best friend, and that’s what friends do yeah?

As a gift for you I wanted to give you a bit of a heads up on a few things......

1. Your Sister. I know she may give you a hard time but trust me when I say in about 8 years she will surprise you and become your best friend.

2. Your Nan. Always treat her well. And know that she knows you better than yourself.

3. Your Brother. Just put up with him for now. In a few years you will need his help a lot more than you think you will and you will be amazed of how much you need each other.

4. Your Mum. The next few years will be a little rough, and I don’t expect you to understand why she might get upset. That’s an adult thing. Just be there to hug her and make her laugh.

5. Your Father. Forgive him, staying angry is only going to hold you back.

6. DON’T SMOKE! You may think it’s cool because you see your family do it. But it’s not! Remember when you pick up that first cigarette in 3 years time, you will be making us both sick.

7. Sing your little heart out. Your Dad will tell you that you aren’t very good in a few years but seriously don’t listen to him. It makes you happy, so do it every chance you can.

8. Treat your friends well and don’t judge them. Right about now you will have people do it to you, don’t stoop to their level. You are so much stronger than that

9. Dance More! You know how much you love looking at your sister when she comes home from Kinetic Dance Studio? At some point people will watch you as well.

10. Dress any way you want. You have never wanted to be like anyone else, so don’t start the habit. You are you for a reason, and I’m sure in a few years time we will both know what that reason is.

11. BE YOURSELF! Always. You will change for so many people that in 10 years time you won’t know who you are anymore and it’ll take a while for you to find yourself. You may not see it yet, but you are, and always will be perfect at being you.

Well Buddy i think that’s about it for now. I could go on, but I want you to have some surprises, and trust me when I say there will be HEAPS! Just ride the wave and live your life. I know your young now, but when you hit my age you will be amazed of how far you have come.

Be happy little man, I love you.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Leverage and Laughter

     It’s called a sock fight. You take a tube sock and stuff the foot portion with more socks, tie a knot in the calf part of the sock and you have a pretty good weapon. To use the weapon, you wrap the tube portion around your hand and begin hacking at your opponent. Simple. Fun. A typical pre-teen boy’s kind of fun. Enter my brother, a true entrepreneur. My brother realized that because my hands were much smaller than his friends, I had more “sock” with which to strike. When they wrapped the sock around their hands, they lost a good deal of the sock “handle.” Not having as much “handle” meant they had to come in closer to their opponent to strike. Come in too close and you lost leverage and force. Me? Not a problem. My hands took very little of the “handle” and I had the added advantage of being shorter, not to mention a serious competitive chip on my shoulder. I never lost. I will confess, that it took me several fights to realize that the allowance money or other bets were transferred between my brother and his vanquished foes, never me. Hmmm.    
      I do not think my brother has a blood pressure. He epitomizes going with the flow of life. Too small to play football in junior high he was allowed to sit on the bench. Once he came home from a game with a dirty uniform. I was so excited thinking he finally got to play. He just chuckled and confessed he rubbed dirt on the uniform so he wouldn’t look so clean. When he got his first paycheck, from a summer job, he cashed the check in one dollar bills, stripped down to his boxers, threw the dollars on his bed, and rolled around laughing. Perhaps because he has no blood pressure he is also the epitome of forgetfulness. He is constantly losing his car keys and would go off to high school band concerts and forget his instrument. Today, on his 58th birthday, having raised his own two sons, he has now become the legal father of his own nine month old grandchild. And he still laughs and embraces the moment.
     No, we are not close. My brother and I have a few Kodak moments such as these but not a close bond. Our paths in life parallel each other but it seems at times in different universes. No, we are not close, but on this day, his birthday, I just wanted to say thank you big brother.
You taught me about leverage and keeping my balance.
You taught me that small does not mean disadvantage.
You taught me how to duck and roll.
You taught me to look life in the eye, take its best punch and never flinch.
You taught me to be silly and just wrap yourself in the moment and laugh.
You taught me that car keys will eventually be found, so why get excited.
You taught me that sitting on a bench is ok because there is more than one way to play.
You taught me that in the midst of heartbreaking disappointment, to keep your eyes on what is important, and what is not.

     Thank you big brother for these Kodak moments. Yes, they are few but each one is precious. With one last look at this mental photo album, I find myself chuckling again. No, we are not close. Maybe you knew we never would be, and so you made sure I knew how to fight through anything and always had the best sock in life – the one stuffed with laughter.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pieces of Love

     End of the day, and I was gathering my things and final thoughts. I heard a voice coming down the hall. There is never any doubt when it is Z’s voice. He really should be on the radio. You know the type- one of those deep, crystal clear deep bass voices. Z was obviously on the cell phone. He went in to the office across the hall as I heard him say ‘good bye’ on the phone.
     Long story short, as he related it to my co-worker across the hall, it was his wife’s birthday. Our work has been so frantic he forgot to order her favorite cake. Every year since they’ve been married, he has always bought the cake for her. It was almost 4pm and he was basically doomed. I chuckled as I heard them call all the local grocery stores that had bakeries, imagining the clerks laughing harder than I was – a lemon filled white cake and you’d like to pick it up now?
     Waiting for the computer to shut down I yelled across the hall and asked if a lemon meringue pie would do. Silence. I don’t think they knew I was still there. Doug’s voice bellowed back “even better.” I suggested he call the local restaurant that is known for its pies. I almost fell to the floor when I heard him on the phone asking “well how many pieces do you have and can you put them in one plate?” The negotiations went on and I heard the call end. I almost crashed into him as he entered my office as I was leaving. Z, well over 6’5” and me, barely 5’2” both came to a fast screeching halt. His deep bass voice laughed. He patted me on top of my head and told me he “owed me.” And off he went.
     Nothing philosophical tonight. No, tonight there is no hidden wisdom or play on words. Just a good man, who loves his wife, was disappointed in himself and was going home with a true gift of the heart – a pie plate of various slices of lemon meringue pie. To be honest, I owe Z.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Texture and Effort

     Ok, I will confess at the beginning that I am easily amused. Like a raccoon with shiny objects, I am easily distracted with the simplest of things and will ‘play’ for hours, turning the moments, the objects or words around in my head.
     Today, during a battle with that yellow plastic binding around a box of copy paper, I somehow managed to split a finger nail. After taking my wrath out on the yellow binding, I went in search of someone with a nail file or something to repair the split and a band-aid. The plant nurse was quite amused. It was not a typical ‘work related’ injury and an Emory board was not part of her normal first aid kit. I bribed her with a candy bar to not report the incident.
     As I began to file the nail down, for some reason, the gritty sound caught my attention (remember my confession). The Emory board reminded me of sandpaper. The Emory board had both a hard gritty surface and a softer but still gritty surface. The harder surface would be like the sandpaper you use to get the top layers of wood or metal sanded down quickly with no worry of damaging the wood – or in this case, the fingernail. The softer side would be for the fine detail work, shaping and creating a soft or satin like texture without damaging or scratching the object. You would not use sandpaper with a very fine grain to start stripping away layers of paint. You would also not use coarse sandpaper to smooth a delicate piece of wood or metal. The purpose of each is to remove the rough edges, strip away the layers hiding the texture, grain and natural state of the hidden beauty. Texture and effort dictate the tool.
     The sound of the file, against my nail, reminded me of walking in the woods. When I first started to file the roughness, I could hear the fall’s crackling leaves and twigs. As the nail became smoother it was spring and the ground was still soft from the winter’s melted snow. With each stroke of the file, my mind traveled down a different path, a different season. In the woods your walk mirrors the seasons.
     The day had been day of rough edges and layers of caked on paint. A day that felt like fall. Instead of the season’s colors I saw only the trees stripped of their leaves, sticks and limbs cluttering my path and I was dreading the winter. Perhaps my friend, the yellow plastic binding, was the gentle side of the Emory board, echoing the craftsman’s words to ‘Know your wood. Go with the grain.” Perhaps it was reminding me to pause, consider texture and effort and the beauty of the path, whatever the season. With one final stroke, I put the treasured Emory board in my desk, along with the band-aid.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No More a Drop

     My sanctuary, the Gulf Coast, is under siege. Scientists, environmentalists, experts of all types are studying the waters, the oil, and the coast line trying to find an answer. A constant set of monitoring is in place to determine the impact upon the Gulf. As the day closes and evening rides in upon clouds of thunderstorms, my mind ponders the image of a drop of the Gulf’s water on a slide and the Gulf itself. I can see microscopes all over the world looking at drops of the Gulf’s water. But is that the Gulf? Is a drop of water from the ocean the ocean?
     From a molecular view the drop taken from the ocean is no different than the ocean. The ocean is but a composite of billions and gazillions of water drops. Each drop’s composition is alike and completely undifferentiated. That is, until you take a sample and call that sample ‘the ocean.’ 
     Under the microscope, the individual drop may show oil, bacteria, perhaps even death. Unseen are the thousands of life forms, fish and creatures that are moving, dancing, giving birth and dying with no sense of tomorrow or yesterday. Theirs is but the moment, the current of life. The flattened glass slide cannot bend to the undulating bed of the Gulf or ocean with its caverns, its unique water flower beds and palms, sand, ship wrecks, coral, mountains and our own pollution. The light of the telescope overshadows the darkness of the ocean or Gulf’s depth, ever so dark, yet so dependent upon the light for its life. The microscope’s magnification cannot show the pressure of the Gulf or ocean at its deepest depths where life forms are rare and human curiosity premeditated.
     Though not molecularly the same, not even water, one cannot ignore a quintessential life form nursed by the Gulf – humans. Young couples, on their honeymoons, entwined as close as they can get, walking the shore line at sunset. Older couples, perhaps watching a different kind of sunset, are content to just hold hands. The squeals of children as the waves knock them down or splash their faces. And of course, those like me, who just sit and listen.
     My sanctuary, the Gulf Coast is under siege. To solve the problem we are looking at drops and thinking we have the whole. I confess a smile now as I write. In some way, are we not all under siege? Outside forces, whatever you wish to call them, are pouring themselves over us, upon us, before us and even pushing us. On a difficult work day like today, as I mourn my Gulf, as always, its healing powers, even in its weakened state, reach me. My smile grows bigger. Look not at yourself as a drop Beth. Settle not for the molecular structure, the sample as viewed under the microscope. The waves, stained with oil still tease me, and the tide calls to me “do not settle”. There’s so much more than the drop. And I choose to splash. Thunder. The drop has left the laboratory.