24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

It's always a challenge, to find good times for walking and being when celebrating and staying with lots of loved ones.  There are meals to make, cookies to bake, puzzles to put together, and things like showering and cleaning up always make their way in there somewhere.  So, I was so glad today to find myself with a half hour before lunch to walk...

I wasn't expecting to be writing here today, but I did walk, and think, and take some photos of this lovely place where I am spending the holiday.  So it just seemed to happen.  I am in a different place...

I hope to deliver some other lovely photos and posts, but for today I just wanted to share the fine, crisp, clear feeling of this place where I am spending Christmas.

And the delightful feeling of being somewhere new, with people I love, on this special day.  I hope you are enjoying this day wherever you are, and that your holiday is wonderful, whatever it may be.

21 December 2011

Adieu and Happy Holidays

Well, K and I are about to leave for a holiday vacation. I expect to be back with stories, photos, and, of course, my thoughts about all of that.

Thanks for reading this past year. Thanks for letting me know when you learn something new.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and that 2012 brings connection, peace, learning, and love.


13 December 2011

Going Back

I had the opportunity this weekend to go back. My sister was up in Seattle for a work conference, so I drove up Saturday night to spend the evening and next day with her. We grew up there, in that rich green city, when the focus was on planes rather than computers; we skinned our knees and rode bikes surrounded by rain and saltwater and moss.

Seattle felt both different and the same; it is, as always, a city in transition. Sometimes, a city block has undergone such significant change that I become disoriented, losing almost entirely my sense of place and direction. Landmarks disappear, new ones appear, and I feel lost until there is that brief view of water, or mountains, or a familiar intersection, and focus returns.

I know where I am, but not exactly. I think that that coffee shop is just over there, but look, there is a new one. I thought that this street went all the way through, oh no it doesn't. I guess I'll take a different way.

C. and I spent Sunday just walking around, lazily, like we did when we were twentysomethings, when weekend time waited to be filled with conversations, revelations, and trips to bookstores. There were occupy protests and coffee-drinkers; lots of people in layers and Christmas shoppers. And among them were the two of us, talking about the past, present, and future, and being glad to be together.

You can't go home again, so they say, and it is especially strange when home feels like a moving target, a constantly changing kaleidoscope of gray and green and water. But being with my sister always feels like home, and being in a Seattle that feels like my life at its beginning, and not, all at the same time, that felt like home, too.

So maybe you can go back, maybe you can go home again, because home is people, and places, and moments. Home is where you find it. Home is always there, if you are willing to settle in.

06 December 2011

Finding a Vast View

It has now been sunny in Portland for several days, with today fogging over just a bit.  Seeing the blue of the sky on a daily basis, what a notion, and how much it seems to matter.  It feels like a perfect amount of beauty and bright to get us ready for the final descent into solstice.

I am attempting to implement a one-long-walk-a-week plan, so yesterday, having a free morning, I took advantage of the sun and the cold to take a nice long walk around my neighborhood.

I decided to walk up the big hill to Council Crest Park, a beautiful grassy knoll that looks out over the city to the East, and the Coast Range to the West.  It is said that this where Native Americans of the area held councils, hence the name.  When you're up there, you can see why. What a wonderful idea, to have important discussions in a place with a view...

So, the walk is no mean feat (yet no real large one either...).  and midway through, huffing my way onto a flat street after a sustained climb, I began to think that perhaps I wouldn't make it up to the top after all, that I could just loop around and head back down.  Why not? Why did I need to go all the way up there anyway?  Who said I had to?

Thankfully, another part of me won out.  The part that just wanted to do what it had set out to do, and knew what awaited after just a bit more work.  I was well rewarded.  Though sunny on top of the hill, fog still clouded the city below.  From the park, I could see the peaks of the cascades, and the city shrouded in mist.

When I reached the top, there were only a few other people there to enjoy the splendor. A man sat on a bench with his dog, talking on a phone. A couple arrived and wandered around a bit, taking in the view and cuddling. I myself sat on a rock wall for quite awhile, feeling the warmth of the sun warm the stones and my face.

I was so happy that I had persevered and done what I had set out to do; what I knew I wanted to do.

What is it they say about choosing the road less traveled by? Oh yes, that it makes all the difference. (But nothing about how hard it is to choose it!)

30 November 2011

It's Always Sunny in Portland

For those of you who know the show, the reference doesn't quite work. But, it was sunny today in Portland! On November 30th! I went for a walk to celebrate.

K. and I meandered around downtown for a bit, had some lunch, and then I sauntered myself down to the river. The Sun! There it was. Blue sky! Shadows!

The day make me think that part of the depressing nature of grey weather is missing our own shadow. Could it be? It felt nice to see mine today, as well as those cast by leaves and trees and other folks.

Some days call us more to LIFE; some, not so much.  Or, not so obviously.  Some days we have to work harder to understand what that particular day (unique and never to be there again) is telling us.  There is always a message, there is always something about ourselves and the mystery of life we can learn. Even when it rains, or is just oppressively grey all day long.

But that was not today!

May your day be filled with exploration.  May your day call you to discover both life and yourself and then find that it is the same seeking.  May you have the chance to feel a winter sun on your face, or, if not, to imagine it.  May you know that that is the stuff of love.

27 November 2011

Light Steps During the Holidays

Entering the holiday season can mean a lot of deep breaths. Now, mind you, I actually really enjoy the holiday season, in theory: the food, lights, gatherings, sense of community and spirit.  We all band together to bring some light to the world just when it all seems about to go out.  I love candles, and green boughs, wrapping presents, and making things (cookies, mostly).  I love big hugs that celebrate just knowing someone for another year.  But, I also take a lot of deep breaths, because the holidays can, in fact, really make me stressed.

Every year, I am determined to deflect this sense of stress and doom.  Around the middle of October I began to strategize about how I am going to organize my holiday emotions into something productive.  I will figure out which presents go to which people.  I will make simple gifts that we can give to many.  I will send Christmas cards, on time, to everyone!   I will make lists! 

Yet, somehow, all these "wills" seem to lead instead to last-minute Christmas shopping, New Year's cards (during a good year), and food hangovers that last until Valentine's Day.  It is an ineffective strategy, at best.

So, this year I am taking another tack: I am going to try to follow the advice I would give to any client that presented me with this issue.  That is, I am going to relax.

I am going to stay open to the right moments for things like baking, making lists, and shopping.

I am not going to shame myself for not getting these things done.

I am going to look at the calendar and lightly plan for parties and other festive occasions.

I am going to smile.

Because, most of all, what I really want for Christmas this year is to simply feel good, to be relaxed, to enjoy the season, to have time for gazing and laughing and breathing in light.

How about you?

23 November 2011

Thank You

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and today I simply wanted to say, thank you.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for supporting my heart and spirit.

Thank you for another day on this beautiful planet. Thank you for raindrops. Thank you for red leaves wet on the ground.

Thank you for your laughter, your warmth, your strong arms. Thank you for your smiles. Thank you for your tears. Thank you for sharing your dreams with me.

Thank you world for another year of life. Thank you for the opportunity to speak and the chance to share.

And thank you for all things beautiful, all things difficult, all things new.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you, dear reader, for you.

15 November 2011

Looking Up

There was something about the moment that called for a walk, but when I started walking, all I could do was think.  About what I needed to get done, should get done, didn't do... my mind was frantically untying and retying knots.

But then, standing at the intersection of NW 11th and Burnside, staring at the big sign for Powell's City of Books, waiting for the always slow walk-sign to change, I realized that I was absent from the moment, from living.  So, I took a breath.  And then, as always happens when I take such a moment, I looked up.

Do you do that?

I find that when I look up, I see wonderful, soul-filling things.  Things like leaves fluttering on tree branches and falling down; people talking and holding hands; the wind coming up the street from the river.

This is what everyone is talking about with mindfulness and living in the moment. It is not about letting go of the future, but rather connecting with the flow of life. Living in your life rather than living in your mind.

It's about noticing small things.  And the feeling of noticing something and thinking, "I would have missed that.  I almost missed that!" And the that being a few scattered leaves swirling along the street in an autumn breeze.

For as simple as these moments are, they are not easy to come by.  Initially.  It takes practice, and it takes knowing how to be quiet, how to lean into the moment.

It's not about finding the perfect moment, but about finding the perfection that is already in the moment, the life that is flowing there.

And all it takes is that breath, those first tries at letting go.  Let go, look up, let go, look up.  Keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. Don't give up yourself, or on someone else, or on life.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says:

Never give up.

No matter what is going on
Never give up.

Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart.
Develop the heart.

Be compassionate.

Not just with your friends
But with everyone.

Be compassionate.

Work for peace.

In your heart
And in the world.
Work for peace.

And I say again,
Never give up.
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up.

Give looking up a try this week, see what you can see. Let life fill your heart.

09 November 2011

San Diego

So, you live in Portland and you're going to San Diego in November.  You're thinking, "This'll be great! Sun right before it really gets dark."  And you're right, some of the time.  My sister said that the weekend we just had in San Diego is about as cold as it gets, and it was downright chilly at times.  Gas wall heaters were being figured out and turned on, and a late party turned into a cuddle under the afghan.  But, it was still lovely...

San Diego is so different than Portland in more ways that you can count.  But they do have similarities.  When Portlanders think of San Diego, they see a big yellow sun and think, "Mmm... that would be nice."  And San Diegans (at least the ones I know), seem to have the same thought, but where we think of sun, they think of culture.  So we're sister cities, cities that long for a missing piece, and see it in the other.

We had so much fun.  We played, of course (see previous post!).  We went to a fancy celebration at this fancy place.  We walked and talked and ate brunch and drank tea and lounged around.  To me, this is the very best kind of visit: simple, sweet, satisfying.  A very good friend of mine, who I get to see very soon, said once that her favorite part of visiting with friends is sitting around in the morning, talking and drinking coffee.  I agree.  Especially when those friends are your sister and beloved brother-in-law.  I felt lucky all weekend long.

K. and I also got a chance to go the famous San Diego Zoo.  Zoo's bring out mixed feelings in both of us.  We see animals living a life that is not their own, but they bring us the gift of connection, even as most of us live in cities and seem to want to work very hard to hurt our shared planet.  It is not an easy thing to stomach, but we had a really lovely morning nonetheless.  So much beauty.  One of our favorite things was seeing all the Koalas, but I didn't get any good pictures of them.  We did, however, ride the  "Skyfari."  Highly recommended.

We ended the weekend on the patio of an old-school golf club overlooking the city. It was an apt ending to a spectacular time of renewed connection and fun.  I love visiting a different place, it always inspires me.  San Diego is a great place to visit and get to know, and enjoy.

I can't wait for our next visit.

04 November 2011

Seriously Playful

Play is on my mind today. K. was mentioning a post about Mr. Rogers that I put up earlier this year, and it made me think of the quote you see above, I love it. And it made me wonder and think about play...

Play is something I personally struggle with. I am the oldest of two, and I am a born boss. I love to plan, know what the plan is, execute the plan, make others follow my plan... you get the drift. So, to find play and make it a part of my everyday life is no small task. Damn. There I go, making play into a task.

We're going to visit my lovely sister and her husband this weekend in San Diego and one of the many reasons I love spending time with them is that I know we will play. Why? Because my sister loves to play - that is where her mind goes first when she thinks about spending time.  This joyful focus is something I have learned from her over the years, and the education continues every time we are together. I need to seriously learn about play. It is a lifelong job.

My sister plays in many amazing ways. She is an artist, a thinker, and the person you want to have around if your life needs a little more zest. She has certainly added a lot to mine. When my mind is saying, "What should I get done right now?" Her mind is saying, "What could I do right now?" A subtle, but important difference.  (We all need both!)

One way that I incorporate more play into my life is to literally 1) take a minute to physically shake off stress, 2) blink my eyes really fast for a second, and 3) look around and ask myself the question, what could I do right now that would make me smile?

May you have a playful weekend.  Try turning a task into something fun.  Wait, that sounds familiar.  How does the song go?
In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game
And ev'ry task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree!
It's very clear to me
That a...
Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
Admit it, you want to go listen to it right now....  May your weekend be delight-filled!

31 October 2011

The Pace of Nature

I am blessed with great, kind, generous friends.  Some of these people, I met on my own, through college, work, or simply living life.   Others, through my best friend, my husband.  This past weekend, we had the pleasure of spending time with some of those friends, two of our best friends, at a house on a lake in central Oregon.  

We had an unexpectedly glorious day, and took a leisurely drive to the house, stopping for lunch and then, even though we thought about just sitting and taking in the afternoon on the deck, walking over to the lake.

Walking to the lake sounds very romantic and picturesque.  And it was, at times...  But the lake is man made, and most of our walk consisted of walking along the muddy lake bottom, now that the water is down.  It got a little slippery, and sticky, and gloppy, but we made our way down about a mile or so and back, and by the time we were walking on the road back to the house, the sun was bright and the sky and the evening ahead felt big and welcoming.  

After our gloppy, slippery walk, we had a great night, playing games, eating wonderful food from my new cookbook, and talking about life and our lives.  And laughing.

Life isn't always perfect, but when I feel connected to someone else, when I feel able to love them and be loved, everything else falls away, and there is peace and hope and the next moment to live.  

Life, especially this modern life, feels to me to be so full of reasons to be upset, afraid, or hurt.  But, most of the time, when we feel afraid, isn't it really because we are disconnected from ourselves and our own truth?  Seeking that truth is a constant work, but isn't that seeking what creates the life worth living?

When we don't give up on seeking within ourselves, we are more likely to find others who are living real lives, and to connect with them.  And to have those wonderful evenings, weekends, talks, and walks.  May your week be filled with hope and connection, and love.

*Quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson

27 October 2011

Honeymoon Cabin

I have something special of mine to share today, and it comes with, as with all things worth sharing, a bit of a story.

There are people who come into your life and then are a part of it from then on, like streams flowing into a river that flows into the sea.  And there are things like that too, at least for me. The little book you see above is actually both.

When I was single and living in Seattle, in the throes of my quarter-century ordeals, I used to wander around junk shops to pass the time on lonely Saturday afternoons (pass the time? having time? what was that like?). It was a comfort activity, something I often did with my family growing up, an activity that felt sure.  I feel confident that in a junk store - as long as it is not too junky - I will find a treasure, a moment of beauty.  Maybe I'll buy it, maybe not, but I almost always see something interesting, full of history and time.

I imagine that on the day I found this little photo book, it was raining, and I was in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle, roaming around with my heart in my stomach, berating myself for not doing the right things, for not knowing who I was.  Oh, those were the days.

But on this particular day, I found something unexpected. Along with something beautiful to look at and touch, I found two new people, and they have been with me ever since.

It would be kind of strange to call them 'friends,' but that's what they feel like. I found their beautiful love book in a drawer full of old postcards. I bought it for $5 and felt like a thief.

The book is a love story, seeming to have been made by him and given to her.  It tells the story of two people who were in love for a long time, and then finally able to be together, and how glad this made them both. You can see in each picture how they delighted in each other, how much fun they had together; the photos show the timelessness of true connection.

I don't know their names or where they lived, but their little book has traveled with me through many moves and life changes. I bring it out sometimes when we have people over, when the night has reached a time for sharing.

K. and I look at the book and wonder "Where are they in this photo?", "Who do you think that is?"  He said the other day that it was too bad that they didn't write down more details about the photos, but I think that just adds to the mystery.   Besides, they didn't need to, because when it was made, the only people who mattered already knew.

Their story has inspired me over the years many times.   I see in them the love, friendship, and constancy I now know to be a part of long-term togetherness.  I hope that their extended courtship led to a long, happy life together.  Little did they know that their memento would add so much to someone else's life.  I hope you enjoy it, too.
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