What’s your favorite season and why is it fall?

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Wrote this yesterday before the day turned irresistibly beautiful… before we walked with friends to a restaurant new to all of us and spent a long lunch laughing and cementing friendship… up the street to Sylas & Maddy’s for ice cream… and a nice stroll home, talking all the way. The Muse tapped my shoulder about this post in the late afternoon, but by then I was far too comfy where I was…

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Favorite season? Fall, hands down for me, for all the reasons. In general, it isn’t too ANYthing… too wet/too dry, too windy/too still, too cold/too hot, just friendly, benign, middle-of-the-road weather while we brace for winter. And never have I been more conscious of the letting-go process fall embodies. The bell tolls, bring out your dead!

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Uncertain of our significance in the universe, we hang onto everything we encounter in life… we might NEED this experience, this memory, this bit of detritus we never really understood in the first place! And we do need some of those things, but not consciously. They’re all there, influencing everything we say and do, we don’t have to think about it constantly, none of it is going away. Short of a lobotomy, most of us will remember the significant moments in our lives, both good and bad, until death or the dreaded Oldtimer’s claims us. The goal is to no longer be predominantly shaped by the negatives we can’t entirely forget – life is genuinely not long enough for those memories to be left in charge… they rule from a bad motive and muck up things that would otherwise be perfectly beautiful for us, thus the need for fall housecleaning. It starts from a spiritual place.

Yesterday Kim and I took a drive through the countryside, which in Eastern Kansas this time of year is a requirement. The leaves are getting creative in their death throes, everything looks crisp and clean, crops are ready for harvest or soon will be… and there’s no sense of regret attached to any of it. Earth’s inhabitants respond to the seasons and behave accordingly, humans in ways that are hard to define. Autumn is the dying time so we tend to assign an extra portion of melancholy to its days and miss its true essence entirely… that death isn’t always a downer, sometimes it’s required. Industrious as we may be, the house isn’t clean if the stench of old death still permeates the walls… so really… why do we cling so tightly to things that once hurt us, made us question our right to be here, and still hold the power to ruin an entire day if we let them? I think that was rhetorical…

I love all the sweet, poignant, utterly lovely moments fall brings, leading to the kind of memories that save us in moments of uncertainty and that inescapable sense of being alone.

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If you find yourself overwhelmed by loneliness and questioning your place in the scheme of things, remember…

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Also, and this is very important to me…

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Box it up…

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I had a wonderful conversation the other day with someone whose opinion matters to me far more than most people’s, and it ended up being helpful beyond words. I’m pretty sure I’d benefit greatly from talking to a qualified therapist in order to tie up a few loose ends before heading into what I like to think of as the home stretch, may it last forever. There are memories and emotions that have become dead weight over the years and need to be put someplace manageable. After Sunday’s healing convo, I had a better understanding of how this works, and it’s key: Nothing goes away, so it has to be put into its own box and treated with respect, but by its very nature it can’t share daily life with me because it isn’t life-bringing.

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You’re allowed to love everything that makes you who you are. Please do.

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We all know…

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If pain of any kind keeps you from owning your daily share of happiness, deal with it in the present using what you know at the time, put it in the Hurt Box, and walk away… don’t give it life outside the container. The stuff in the box tends to get quieter by the day if we don’t open the lid, and that’s a mercy.

Peace to you in all things on this crisp fall morning…

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Do not fear to go to the end of your thoughts…

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Have you ever wondered how the heck people spend their hours when they don’t get up and go to a job every day? Probably not, you’re too busy working your ass off! In this particular household, to reduce it to its essence, one of us stays as active as humanly possible and the other lives in her head a lot. It works out.

The athletically-inclined partner walks before sun-up, plays at least three hours of PickleBall, rides his bike a couple of times on purposeful jaunts, and finds any excuse to move his molecules. Every day. The more introspective half of the equation flies under the radar most of the time, entrenched in an activity known as “puttering.” It’s complicated. Despite a lifetime as a farm girl, she wakes up slowly. Coffee and silence are all she cares about for the first hour, which starts at 6am, while her drowsy molecules debate what will actually be done today, if anything.

Then the caffeine hits, and she’s making the rounds.

  1. Delete most emails since last night. ✔️
  2. Catch the online news headlines. ✔️
  3. Look at Facebook notifications and post Pollyanna stuff more than bitching and moaning. Trying hard here, I mean it. ✔️
  4. Switch to Twitter and flaunt the freaky-flag for a soul-cleansing while. As a Midwestern child, I was raised to be nice in all circumstances. (That’ll be in the book, too.) So in these years of “Start winding it down a little, baby,” Twitter is the therapist I need – no judgement for being real, and I’m selective with my following/followers. Feels almost safe there, bwahahaha!! ✔️
  5. Slip into the Tevas, grab my phone, ID, and walking pole, and hit the streets for at least a half-hour while the town wakes up. ✔️
  6. Come home, pour another cup, and enjoy the rest of the morning guilt-free. The things that keep us operational will get done today… everything else is gravy. It’s all still loading, so no checkmark yet…

So yeah, life at this stage can be pretty boring, terribly lonely, a little baffling… or we can use our human powers to make it better than that, by a lot. We’re basically ants with awareness, therefore feelings, so every 24hr cycle is a balancing act between our lack of control over our environment and our knowledge that we’re real, we’re here, and there are things we can do to make it better for everybody… after we finally learn to love ourselves.

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This poignant letting go that we call “fall” is prime time for introspection, even for those who don’t ordinarily lean that way. It’s so stark, that fall from grace when the luscious leaves turn brown and crunchy underfoot… it scares us a little and makes us too conscious of our tentative ant-like status here, just as we’re heading into the cold and dark again. We can’t handle the universe, it’s on its own, so our assignment is to deal with what touches us on a personal level or threatens the existence of other humans. That’s enough for any lifetime…

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Autumn, I really love you…

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Totally Zen start to the day, sitting in the predawn darkness while rain pounded against the windows and the trains going through town sent out their lonesome danger-laced greetings. “We’re here, beware. You, though… sleep on, all’s well.” Kim’s 6am PickleBall group fell apart at the last minute, so he came back home and I ended up with an Einstein’s bagel out of the deal. For lunch we made a Ramen noodle stew that will end up in the rotation… perfect on a rainy fall day. All is indeed well.

Speaking of which, before we get too far into holiday shenanigans…

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This morning the U.S. is in constitutional crisis, teetering between the democracy we’re trying to keep, and the fascism being foisted upon us… but I can’t get into that, my beautiful fall day would be wrecked and so would yours. It’s exhausting, the outer circumstances and the things we all deal with on a personal level, and sometimes it feels like I’ll never not be tired, so this resonates…

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Loss and patience go hand in hand if you survive.

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Fall carries its own brand of generosity, with its colors and schizophrenic weather and its assurance that it really is okay to let go. Its intrinsic melancholy is oddly healing and it feels like home.

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Sea change…

Look at the time, it’s the next-to-last day of summer already! We have a nice cool morning ahead of our 100º high… the sun’s shining, the mowers are mowing, the fresh-cut grass smells like a benediction… and I enjoyed my morning walk before 7:30. We’re supposed to be in the mid-80s tomorrow, and then autumn greets us on Thursday with a high of 61º and rain, wouldn’t that be perfection. Seemed like kind of a short summer, but they all do now, and we’re ready for the loveliness fall brings.

It’s been a week since I sat here and wrote anything, but not for lack of opportunity and effort. I learned early on that my muse does not reward effort… she values only my trust. First and foremost: coffee, preferably Kim’s, which is steeped in love and not tainted by Starry-eyed capitalism. 😊 Next, quiet and focus, which might not be exactly what you envision. I can stare at a leaf outside my window while I write a whole paragraph without glancing at the keyboard. Is that a marketable talent? SPOILER: No. No, it is not. But it’s a good exercise when it works.

And then, when the quiet settles down around me, we talk, my elusive muse and I. She brooks no untruth, no dissembling, no dancing around the real stuff, and sometimes she simply goes away until I’m ready for it. She knows the world is a hard place to be right now if you possess awareness… that double-edged sword of knowledge. She knows other species don’t have to deal with this aspect of life on earth, so she tries extra hard to be kind while tormenting me with things I could maybe think about.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness… what it is and what sort of power we hold over it… and as with all of life, it comes down to balance. Kim gets twitchy-butt if he stays indoors for too long, whereas it’s pretty okay with me in here most of the time. It does get really quiet, though, especially without the talking heads on TV news who used to babysit me. What I’ve realized is that often all I crave is the murmur, the presence of other people, and I don’t even need to be part of the conversation. Times when I’m happy to sit in the corner of a coffee shop with my iPad, on the periphery, listening to the ebb and flow of communal existence while bearing no responsibility for decisions being made around me, simply benefitting from the nearness of others who resemble me. And then I toddle back home, thankful for the grace of peace and silence.

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I think about what it means to be an introvert, an empath, a peacemaker, and a relentless advocate for truth and justice, all wrapped up in one neat little neurotic bundle… and mostly it means that at any given time somebody’s really pissed at me and would love to tell me so, and that my spirit is basically conflicted nonstop… but whaddaya gonna do. Refer to description in this paragraph… by the stars, I never had a chance.

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Life is an endless puzzle, but a bit of awareness and longevity go a long way, and eventually, over years of paying attention, a pattern emerges. Humans are selfish and lazy; therefore, life has only a partial shot at running smoothly at any point in time, and given free reign we will screw things up past all fixing. Are we there yet? Feels like we’re there. I saw this yesterday. It’s real. Feel free to google it.

Dealing with the day-to-day is a contact sport not suited for the faint of heart nor the easily discouraged, and that’s without assholery like the above. Ya’ll can have Orange Jesus 100% to yourselves, thx.

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I plan to do the same. Hope it works out that way for you, too.

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Of wolves and wings and sealing wax…

A thing I like about being this age and out of the work force is that nobody’s the boss of us except death and taxes. When Kim got home from PickleBall this morning I’d downed half a pot of coffee but no food yet, so he made the Saturday breakfast on Wednesday because nobody told him he couldn’t, and I like how that works out.

The downside of not having a CEO is there’s nobody here to ensure that I live my best life except me. Kim’s entitled to carefully-worded suggestions, but I’m the only boss I have and it’s exhausting. I get up by 7am or earlier most mornings, grab a mug of coffee, and sit here for the next hour catching up on news of the world while the two wolves inside me wage a battle over the daily stroll. One wolf’s all about how it’s too hot or too chilly, too windy or too still, you deserve a little break and one day off won’t hurt a thing. The other, the leaner of the two, reminds me how easy it is to break a good habit, how miserably guilt-ridden I’ll be all day if I don’t put my shoes on and go, how righteous I’ll feel telling Kim about where I went and what I saw out there in the greater world.

The wise wolf won this morning’s tug-o-war again, so chalk up another one for health and sanity, she and I have found ourselves out there trekking far more days than not since this past December. And yes, my two Canis Lupii are female, full of wisdom and experience, I only have to be careful which voice I allow through the veil in any given circumstance…

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Rodney Dangerfield had it right… no respect.

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God’s truth. Come visit, we’ll show you.

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If you’re smiling, my work here is done. Have a wonderful Wednesday and remember…

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What we have here… is a failure to communicate!

So far I don’t mind terribly much getting older, there are things about it that are actually almost cool. But FEELING old… out of it… behind… I hate it. Nothing pisses me off faster than trying to do something I knew how to do before technology changed the parameters. I love technology. Technology is my friend. Until it isn’t, and I have to ask for rescue from someone whose otherwise perfectly lovely accent doesn’t play nicely via phone with my hearing assists/brain. And the page he sends me to clearly doesn’t look like the one he’s on because the right questions and blanks are not available; therefore, there’s an impassable hurdle in the form of name/password legalese which I will never get past so I’m hereby resigning from the world and resolving never again to leave the safety of my perfectly manageable home. It doesn’t matter that I can’t get an automatic payment set up online BECAUSE I’M A HERMIT NOW!! I won’t need the thing I’m supposed to be paying for, so stuff it, world!

Sigh. I feel marginally better, thx for listening. On a happier note… and EVERYTHING was on a happy note until that frickin’-frackin’ brick wall… I spent an hour and a half outside this morning, an hour of it walking. Picked up a bagel and coffee and sat in the park again, reading and people-watching. There were at least 50 middle-schoolers, and several adult-types carrying guitars, gathered on the east side of the park, but nothing discernible transpired before I trekked toward home. Looked all squeaky-clean and wholesome, though, at 7:30 on a Friday morning.

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Ope, it was THIS!

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ENJOY THE HECK OUTTA LIFE EVERY DAY!

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Breathe…

She sat at the back and they said she was shy,

She led from the front and they hated her pride,

They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,

They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,

When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,

So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,

They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,

And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,

And she listened to all of it thinking she should,

Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,

But one day she asked what was best for herself,

Instead of trying to please everyone else,

So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,

She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,

She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,

And she told them what she’d been told time after time,

She told them she felt she was never enough,

She was either too little or far far too much,

Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,

Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,

Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,

And she stopped…and she heard what the trees said to her,

And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,

For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.

Author: @Becky Helmsley

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This breathtaking poem was shared on Facebook without accreditation, which google fixed for me, quickly finding Becky for the documentation she must have. The poem’s title is BREATHE. Reverse Image Search failed me utterly, however, so for now Tree Woman will remain anonymous.

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The sweet discovery I made, three lines in, is that BREATHE is written in the same meter as Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman to Me.” So yes… you can sing it! And if ever a poem needed to be sung… LOUD… it’s this one.

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Still hanging around, what a surprise!

At 7:00 on a September morn, fog hanging in the trees, a cheese Danish and hot coffee in front of me courtesy of Kim… I’m settling into the fact that today I’m 75 years old. It’s frankly weird to find myself at an age that once sounded unbearably old, life over, stick with your comfy chair, lap blanket, and tepid tea, Granny-Face. But I watched both of my grandmothers live past 95, keeping their minds reasonably intact, and this morning I know you don’t shut things down three-quarters of the way through, so on we press.

When Kim and I got married, I was the reverse of today’s number… 57. A full range of life events has taken place in the intervening 18 years, letting me know for sure that life doesn’t hinge on ages, numbers, or our careful plans. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be 75 plus a day, and the days will continue to spool out until I reach the final one, whenever it comes.

The gray flannel morning has crept up against my windows, socking me into my quiet corner with only my thoughts for company… just the way I like it. These gentle surroundings are causing me to be highly conscious of a few key factors in making it to this milestone in a positive frame of mind…

  1. After two years of treatment protocols, Kim’s oncology numbers are below zero… success!
  2. With the advent of vaccines, boosters, and a lower transmission rate, John’s work at the hospital is becoming a little safer and more conducive to longterm breathing.
  3. Since Christmas and a spinal fusion via robot, I’ve been without my old companion of fifty years… nerve pain… and I’m walking my tush off on the surrounding sidewalks.
  4. Last week I got new hearing assists with the latest technology… and joy of joys, I can actually HEAR! I’ve been missing so many sounds for who knows how long, I’m having to retrain my ears and brain to tolerate the sheer input of it all and it’s wonderful.
  5. Despite every awful thing at loose on the planet, genuine loving humans give me insane hope for a future that is not dystopian. I texted with two of them this morning… day made! People haven’t called me Pollyanna all my life for nothing.

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Very happy to be a Virgo. Otherwise, I’d have to be someone else entirely.

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Hello, starshine…

It might sound odd, but I miss you when I stay away for too long and fail to write down every thought in my head as OCD, ADHD, and anxiety demand. Beyond an incredibly faithful core of readers, I have no idea who sees my words… but there are days when I can feel benevolent forces just behind the wall… this wall I’m scribbling on now, defacing it with my own brand of graffiti… and I’m glad you’re there. Makes me wish for words of wisdom to impart, something that would make your day a little shinier, your heart a bit lighter. Alas, it turns out I’m here mostly to bitch and moan and call for backup, so may the gods bless your heart for sticking around.

This morning was undoubtedly one of the most perfect of my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot. The temp and humidity were just right and the sky was pure sunshine, a Chamber of Commerce kind of day. I walked to Einstein’s to get a bagel and coffee, then to a picnic table in South Park where I enjoyed a quiet breakfast while I read my book via phone and watched Larryville wake up. Not a leaf was stirring in the massive trees that must have already been standing when Quantrill and the Boys came through during the Civil War, trying to burn everything to a cinder.

There’s no way I could reach across this, let alone around its circumference. There be giants.

A couple of people wrapped in blankets on the hard floor of the gazebo were gradually letting the sun’s rays wake them up, and I hope someone provided coffee after they came to life.

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As we inch our way toward the season of the long shadows, I’m storing sunshine and benevolent days… we’ll need every bit of it.

Kim Smith self-portrait, August 2022

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I’ll leave you with this… and if you know the translation, please share it!

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