It all fits…somewhere…

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Immersed in my current obsession again this morning, another big jigsaw puzzle on my desktop. It’s one way to kick my brain cells into gear before noon, along with about a gallon of coffee, and the sunshine outside my windows.

Obsessions, like the rest of life, can add to our education if we’re paying attention. For today’s wake-up challenge I chose one with a semi-tough blend of colors and upped the percentage of oddball pieces, as well as the total number, and as I’m working away my stream of consciousness goes something like “Okay, that one might work, just try it. Wow, so close. So many pieces, but it’s one per spot, focus until you see it. Look for one at a time, just one, but if you run across one that goes somewhere else grab it,” which taken together strikes me as a rolling metaphor for life.

I give the pieces names: one that’s concave on all four sides is a squishy, the fun pieces are toys, if there’s a bubble on top with upraised arms and a wide bottom that’s a snow angel, the ones with droopy or proud tabs come with a ‘toon-peen warning, like that. And there’s always an empty spot that doesn’t seem to have a match anywhere on the board, but toward the end, there it is. It doesn’t look like it could be right until you drop it in place…and then it’s a perfect blend. Subtlety is so easily missed…

Guess that was Granny Smith’s little homily for the day, make of it what you will. But do keep your eyes open for opportunities and sweet link-ups that can change the whole picture, and I wish you well with solving the puzzle that’s currently in front of you. MUAH!

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Three Things

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It’s an eating-ice-cream-from-the-carton kind of HumpDay, even though I made a beautiful list this morning, in my best handwriting, fully intending to accomplish more than making the bed.

So far I’ve made the bed.

This is turning out to be a fibro day extraordinaire, plus social media is a swirl of innuendo and intrigue, bringing emotions to the fore and threatening friendships and family ties, things better dealt with in a less vulnerable state of mind. In truth there’s so little any of us can do to influence events, or even to order our own small worlds, it’s easy to get discouraged and walk away.

I’m pretty resigned, at this point, to the philosophy contained in the graphic up there – resigned but not discouraged.

Life teaches us that everything indeed changes. Buried in the fine print is the disclaimer that some things never return to us, and we don’t get out of here without knowing that, in there where we feel it. We’re abjectly powerless to stop change, so accepting that it simply IS is what we’ve got available to us.

From there it’s a short existential hop to knowing that everything is connected. Life doesn’t take place in a vacuum, so everything that happens affects something else, on into infinity. A lot of what happens out there in the world around us does not add up to a positive effect for our benefit. A lot of it hits us hard and keeps right on trucking. Which brings us to our final point:

PAY ATTENTION. It’s what keeps us out from under trucks and buses and the random despot, and if we’re too busy to pay attention the hits are not going to be kind to us.

For now I’m exhausted from the effort required simply to pay attention, so here’s the deal… I can only pay attention for myself, and I lack the energy and drive to help anyone construct a mental/spiritual house they’re comfortable living in, or to validate that construct by never doing anything that would cause them to examine it too closely. If things I write cause you to fidget and make faces, just remember that I can’t see you out there in the world, through some magic mirror that shows me and the TV audience your inner heart and thoughts – so it could just be your own reflection.

It’s almost 5pm now, so screw the list for yet another day, I’m moving in with Kimmers where the fire’s cozy and the vodka sours are cold. Happy Hour with sweetums is an effort I can get behind…

 

 

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The Fix…

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there are remedies

for what breaks our hearts in two

but they are unknown

JSmith 12/26/2016

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Be like a tree…

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Image: Lars van de Goor

Be like a tree, and let the dead leaves drop.

~ Rumi

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Sacred Sound of the Universe

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Constant Reader will remember my brutal fall on the ice in January and the mystifying soundtrack that has inhabited my skull ever since. After nine months’ time, during which the music has morphed from one personality to another, and countless days when I’ve found myself astonished that Kim can’t hear it because it’s so overwhelming and all-enveloping, I’ve finally stumbled across an answer that resonates with me.

It’s a passage from THE NIX, by Nathan Hill, in a scene from the tumultuous 1960 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Allen Ginsberg has seated himself cross-legged in the grass, palms raised to the universe, listening, as the hordes of protesting flower children stream past him toward an unseen ambush.

“He wants to soothe them. ‘The way forward is like water.’ But he knows it isn’t good enough, isn’t radical enough to calm the wild appetite of the young. And so Ginsberg strokes his beard, closes his eyes, settles into his body, and answers in the only way he can, with a deep bellow from the bottom of his belly, the great Syllable, the sacred sound of the universe, the perfection of wisdom, the only noise worth making at a time like this: Ommmmm.

“He feels the hot holy breath in his mouth, the lifted-up music breath released from his lungs and his gullet, from his guts and heart, his stomach, his red blood cells and kidneys, from his gallbladder and glands and the long spindly legs he sits on, the Syllable issues from all these things. If you listen quietly and carefully, if you are calm and you slow down your heart, you can hear the Syllable in everything – the walls, the street, the cars, the soul, the sun – and soon you are no long chanting. Soon the sound settles into your skin and you are simply hearing the body make the sound it has always made: Ommmmm.”

The music inside my head is simply the sound my body has always made, and when I’m intentional about calming every cell and listening it sounds like Ommmmm, the sacred sound of the universe. It’s a G-major and I would deeply miss it now if it ever went away…

 

 

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The Unbearable Lightness of Reading…

 

A marathon it’s been, the best kind – three books in quick succession, by three distinct authors, and connected by one unbroken muscular thread – The People, as they have always called themselves – and their existence from time primeval.

First in the “series,” entirely by happy chance, was MAUD’S LINE, written by Margaret Verble and published in 2015, the fictionalized story of a young Cherokee girl becoming a woman in 20th Century Oklahoma. Its contemporary portrayal of a time just past hooked itself into my imagination from – halleluiah, page one – and delivered me directly to book two.

Which – I assume you’re taking notes – was LAKOTA WOMAN, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, published in 1990, and not fictionalized at all. The author was active and instrumental in the Bureau of Land Management and American Indian Movements of the 1970s and 80s with Russell Means, Dennis Banks, so many others, and her gritty recounting of all the seemingly unrightable wrongs that have altered The People’s reality since the White Guys got here burned itself into my consciousness, not to put too fine a point on it.

So when both a friend and an esteemed nephew recommended Annie Proulx’s BARKSKINS within hours of each other it was clear that lil’ Ms. Serendipity had dropped in again and placed a shiny object in my path. Off the top, let me quickly address a few negative comments I’ve seen: that perhaps Ms. Proulx’s focus is…unevenly focused…that she hammers, that she commits “stylistic infelicities.” Yes, I caught all of that, recognized it, owned it and read on. The scope of the story is so expansive, so unexpectedly gripping, that the combined weight of all the odd little imperfections adds up to less than that of a feather – notable by virtue of existence, but in the end taking nothing from the whole.

Annie Proulx, author of THE SHIPPING NEWS, for which she won a Pulitzer in 1994; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, for which she won the prize called “We’re turning your book into a movie;” along with at least a baker’s dozen more titles, has at 80 years of age turned out an epic about trees, of all things, that kept me absorbed from first page to last. Aside from her colossally amazing book, I love that she’s even older than I am, has been described as “sassy,” and knows how to write like a mutha.

Annie takes us from 1693, starting with the French in what became Canada, to 2013 in what is still Canada – with side trips to London, New Zealand, what we now know as the continental United States, and points everywhere around the globe, the entire saga stemming from one family line and diverging throughout multiple others, from the French, to The People, to the Dutch, et.al. And the wonder is that she makes us care about the majority of those characters, even though we sense they are soon to be swept from the stage to make room for succeeding generations, each one more fascinating than the last.

I like big books and I cannot lie, and at more than 700 pages BARKSKINS was too short. Annie Proulx knows how to put us at the scene of the tale with a lovely economy of language; how to scatter engaging and/or redeeming characters into all parts of the story, avoiding what could have become a tedious litany; how to illuminate dilemmas that we would downplay if left on our own. If that shedding of light is “hammering,” we’re clearly in need of a butt-load more of it – the denuding of nearly all this planet’s original forests is but one ongoing dilemma of many.

BARKSKINS indelibly lays out the sins of the past and their consequences for all humanity while also serving up reasons for hope, that essential tool of survival. Hang onto it, you future humans, and may it save your hide since most of your forebears have never carried, nor do they (we) carry, their (our) fair share of responsibility for what your present might look like.

As William T. Vollmann wrote in his New York Times book review:

“Now our own world is likewise fading, thanks to climate change. The root cause of our self-impoverishment is thoughtfully teased out in BARKSKINS, whose best line may well be this: ‘My life has ever been dedicated to the removal of the forest for the good of men.'”  – June 17, 2016

 

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The Art of Humaning

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Like the world outside our doors the place I call home is endlessly quirky. Our daily lives are first off influenced and impacted by the commercial entities under us and the wheels of commerce send a hum upward through the girders that assures us the world is on track, a nap would be good. Above the hum, on floors three through five, independent thought rules. We’re a collection of young to old, friendly to cold, liberal to conservative, social butterfly to I-vant-to-be-alone, moneyed to who knows/cares – the quintessential microcosm in so many directions. A neighbor-sighting is rare for me, possibly because I vant to be alone.

Consensus is often hard to come by in the governance of the building, inside and out, concerning the simplest of matters. Many tears can be spilled over a paint color while the landscaping dies clean away. We are know-it-alls and trust-me-I-know-nothings. A lawsuit is for some the quickest route to satisfaction, while for others patient thoughtful communication is the only way to go. Some are quick to take offense, some know how to deflect it, and some truly do not give a shit.

We’re a civil bunch – in the hallways, the mailroom, on the street, we’re nice AF, voluntarily forgetting what he said about…what she told her…where they stand on… Life requires it because humaning in close quarters is deadly after all the civility leaks out.

Wherever two or three are gathered, there will be the basic building blocks of personality among us and those elements have to continuously mesh in order to prevent societal meltdown, whether on a grand or intimate scale. A spinning globe scabbed over with layers of bloodied inhabitants has no alternative but to stop being stupidly selfish and help each other. It really is that simple.

Nothing about our particular living experience is new, different, or unique to the world – this is who humans are and we will never align perfectly with each other. But forget perfect, we have to collectively make the whole thing work or let it all go down the sewer – we’re out of options. Will we figure it out? Will we keep ourselves from erasing all life from the earth? Or will we hold out for what we want, damn the consequences forever?

 

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Not bitter.

Beware-of-Dogma

 

oh the odd day when

karma runs over dogma

redress is too sweet

JSmith 6/27/2016

*If you despise Haiku, hang loose, it’s summer – braining in progress…

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Just give it to me straight …

FACT:  Beneath this happy giving nature is a Selfish Girl.

FACT:  I write almost entirely for Myself.

FACT:  Nevertheless, I’m insatiably curious about who reads what goes out there, and what they like about it, if anything.

FACT:  I would love YOUR feedback, YOU reading this, right now.

FACT:  Not saying I’ll base topic choices on the results of the poll.

FACT:  But I’m genuinely interested in opinions, input, personal feedback, criticisms and witticisms.

FACT:  THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION!

Choose up to three categories.

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A self-rant …

2015 looks fine so far, relatively speaking, but there is much to do as the year rolls by.  Each of the eight points delineated by Neil is a rant aimed specifically at me — a kick in the shorts toward a more focused writing experience.  So on January 5, 2016, remember to ask me how I feel!

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Good Writing Practices:

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30 Things to Start Doing For Yourself

 

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http://themindunleashed.org/2014/07/30-things-start-4-absolutely-vital.html

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The Art of Survival

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Save the drama for ya’ mama …

There are a million things involved in a move.  First of all, way more work than you ever dreamed.  Changes in every direction.  Base lines to reestablish — we go here for groceries, there for prescriptions, and all those other places for everything else.  Life turns upside down for a while, and not all of it feels good.

But then there are the unexpected bonuses, the stuff you never really thought about.  And I can’t think of a better bonus than leaving drama behind.  When we left, all that exhausting craaazy that was attached to our former lives fell away.  Ceased to exist.  We were so covered up with moving it took a while to realize why we felt so zen, but once we figured it out we vowed not to go there again.  Ever.

I can never remember to check my blood pressure, but I’m pretty sure it runs lower than it used to.  I sleep like there’s no tomorrow.  Deep, restful sleep, for ten hours a night or more.  That’s never happened before.

It’s occurred to me in the past few days that I will do anything legal, moral, and not too stupid to keep from being dragged back into <<<< Stresssss Worrrrllldd>>>>.   We like this too much, we’ve settled into our own little routines too well, fallen in love with feeling happy and at peace too deeply, freed ourselves too ruthlessly from the things that don’t fit, to ever go back.

One of the most liberating things in life is the word “no.”  Prolly gonna be using it unreservedly.

 

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Maya Angelou ~1928-2014

 

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Staying in the swim …

We’ve recently changed up our exercise routine because Kim needs to rest his ankle and shoulder, so he’s off the racquetball court and I’m out of Aqua Zumba for now.  Instead we’re swimming laps in the early mornings.  Our spring/summer schedule filled up when we weren’t paying attention, so the earlier start every day has been a good thing, and Kim’s owies are starting to like the new regimen.

One of my last class sessions was something I’m glad I didn’t miss — you can’t prepare for serendipities, you just have to be lucky enough to notice all the little nudges that take you through your days in style.

Okay, I need to tell you that when John was just out of college and starting his first career, he got involved with an organization that provided a social life for developmentally-challenged young adults.  His stories were funny and endearing, and it was clear right away that he had a gift for what he was doing.  He eventually went on to exchange his design career for one as an oncology RN, and he’s not only really good at that, his tenderness for his first clients has stayed with me.

So there was a morning a while back when I’d almost skipped Zumba class … again.  But hey, I showed up.  I was in the water warming up when the door opened and a young guy with killer abs walked in, followed by several men of mostly indeterminate age and clearly working under challenges of various sorts.  Nice Ab Guy asked if this was Zumba class and I said yes.  He asked the instructor if it would be okay for them to work out with us and she said of course!  So he helped the other guys tighten their waistband drawstrings, finessed ear and nose plugs, and coaxed them into the shallow end of the pool.  They were none too sure about the whole thing, but their shy smiles were to die for.  The eldest had scars over his back and arms that looked like severe burn damage and I prayed that some inferior human creature hadn’t hurt him on purpose.

The music cranked up, loud as always, and the new guys, with encouragement from a dozen or more mamas, got into it.  Ab Man was born to dance, and obviously to help people who need him.  The sweet guy with the burn scars was so sincere and earnest about trying to keep up with the moves, I had to put my face in the water to camo the tears.  One young guy spent his time looking around, blowing bubbles, and making the water splash big.   He may have had the best time of anyone.  Every glance at one of us asked “Is this okay?  Can I do this?”  When class ended we all told them to be sure and come back, but that didn’t happen before I dropped out.  I hope they remember their time with us as one of the really good days.

I’m lazy and whiny and it’s almost second nature for me to pick the easy way if there is one.  Those guys’ lives are hard in ways I’ll never experience, but they keep going and they’re as stoic as anyone I’ve ever seen.  I hope the people they encounter will be unfailingly kind to them and that even though they’ve been burned by life they’ll never lose those shy sweet smiles and their willingness to be and do and keep on giving.  I have no right to even ask that … but there’s so much they can teach the rest of us and we need them.

 

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