Before I go…

skylight view

While the new day still lies in early morning repose, the emotion of departure mixes with the many new questions, new answers, revelations that have formed over the last ten days. Has the next great American novel been written? Has the cure for cancer been discovered? Have all the world’s problems been solved? No. Not even mine. However…

The blessing of being alone, being still, being quiet, is a gift I wish for everyone. Some may be frightened of it, some may be annoyed, but eventually, they would get it. They would understand when their spirit gently cracks open to life’s possibilities. When they realized their hearts are beating at a more manageable rhythm, their breath is fuller, when their eyes see more and further than before.

Before what? Before that “other” reality. The “reality” of bills and telephones and parties and plumbing problems and excess and guilty pleasures (okay, yes, I had a few of those up here on my mountain retreat), empty bank accounts, cuddling with kitties, playing with friends and thread-bare tires. The concern over those very rubber transport mediums is already beginning to vibrate at the thought of one last trip down this rutty, rocky road and high-speed highway. I suppose I’m already transitioning.

However, I feel I do so with more grace and confidence. Having meditated on the strength and creativity of my ancestors, some whose names I know and others who I do not, warriors and healers, to bring me through and past certain struggles… Alright, I admit, that line was from the Reiki Woman I just spoke with yesterday in the crystal shop in town…. Timing or truth, it made a final shift for me last night. The energy was so bright, it kept me awake for hours. And that was good!

good advice

Reiki Woman asked me about what I was doing to work though this place of “stuck” or “lack of confidence”, was I visualizing light? “After all, that is the first thing we see when we are born and it sounds like that is the last thing we see when we die! It is a place of beginning and end and all in between. In that lies strength.”

And so, I suppose it is. We lose sight of what we learned when we were developing in the womb. We are too scared to listen to our intuition or we are vibrating so loudly we can’t hear it. By the end of our lives, so many of us will ignore life’s truths about love and respect and service and compassion because of of all we have allowed ourselves to be taught in our conscious minds, which clouds our true selves, the Qui, the life force. The love force.

We are all energy. We breathe it in- that which has been breathed before by those ancestors to whom we pray as well as every other sentient being in history- we breathe it out- to be absorbed by all those around us now and hereafter. It is what binds us together. We cannot be alone, truly, but in our most conscious minds. Our spirits, our souls… that is the place of love.

Feet in the dirt, lying in the sand, sitting in the garden, take a moment (or as many moments as you can) to be still, to be quiet. Focus on each sound or lack of sound. Then focus on each sensation or lack thereof. Remember, we are one. This, I offer as a gentle  reminder to myself. Breathe in. Breathe out.

bear creek sunset

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Tall is a sensation…

Tree Trifecta

Tree trifecta- redwoods

Big Basin State Park is California’s oldest state park, established in 1902 in Santa Cruz county. Winter is a lovely time to visit if you have an aversion to crowds and don’t mind wet, muddy pathways. Not surprisingly, there are also a number of branches and saplings down across trails that may lead one astray, turn one around. Not that that happened to me yesterday. Okay, it did.

One could not possibly get too nervous as the park road was often only a half mile away from the trail I’d chosen (although there was nary a car on that road you might detect), the creek was often within hearing distance, and the sun was at midday, so, my feet just kept wandering. As Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.” hahaha…  Seriously, it was almost a blessing. I’d already forgotten my phone at the cabin and consciously left my trusty camera behind to just-be-there and this simply pushed me into true disconnect. Sublime. (And I cheated on the photo above- with no camera in the park, I settled for these young beauties on my friends’ property)

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible…In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.

– Wendell Berry –

Word reached me this morning, here in my retreat, of the sudden death of a friend back home. Sigh. Yesterday I was caressing and leaning into old growth forest, absorbing its ancient energy and strength that I may replenish and carry with me. All around, there were fallen and decaying trees infusing life with their death. I know that is how it goes in the universe yet these shocks are becoming all too common these days, in my circle. The more friends and family you are blessed with, the more loss you can suffer. But, conversely, you also grow and love and feel more- and isn’t that what life is, why we’re here? This is still very hard. I’m grateful for that fill-up…

This morning (before the email) as I lay warmly ensconced in a mountain of blankets, the frigid cold of the off-grid house trying to pry it’s way under the covers, hearing only the soft patter of rain on the skylight and the faint ticking of a small clock (why is that sound always making itself present?), I thought, “Silence is a relative term.” The dogs are still asleep, we are at the end of a long, dirt road with no visitors, we are in between generator cycles (the back-up to the solar) and even the refrigerator is at rest for the moment. By some standards, this is quiet. It is. But the ruckus between the ears begins to make up for it. Seems to me there is a balance to be reached there. But how?

Vintage woodstove

To do nothing. How often do we do that? I don’t have  to check email. I don’t have to answer my phone or texts. Walk the dogs. Done. Build up a good fire in the wood stove. Done. Brush my hair and teeth just that I might maintain some self-respect. As good as it gets… Meditate on the fire, as I did on the creek several times yesterday, like a hypnotist in the movies waves a pocket watch before the eyes of his client, I sneak off into oblivion.

Conceitedly, selfishly, I imagined, “only artists and writers never get to really turn off their brains.” Admittedly, mine was pretty much shut down. Running water balances my spirit, restores the negative ions, and simply soothes my mind. Flames licking about in a controlled fire, mesmerize with their dance over the tinder and logs. “Should” is a word I’m trying to avoid these 10 days. I’d much rather meditate on these natural, mystical offerings or the rain clouds ebbing and flowing through the valley and hills.

Stepping outside for a moment, away from my projects, to play with the dogs, get some fresh air and stretch, throw my shoulders back, look out over the tree tops and smile…I feel taller, able to take more in, come to think of it- but only the worthwhile stuff.

 

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Party of One

solo

And so it comes to be that it all is down to me… nobody else to hold accountable for washing the dishes, mowing the yard, fixing the leaky faucet or to appreciate those new irises popping up behind the fuchsia bush. The good and the bad, there is nobody to blame, to take the heat, to discuss the age-old question of what’s for dinner with but that face in the mirror. Gads, such responsibility!

Accepting an offer to retreat to the mountains of Santa Cruz, I have time to contemplate all this. Seriously, with nobody to answer to or keep waiting, I can do so anytime, anywhere but this is planned contemplation. Whatever that means. Better make it count. However you quantify that.

I took the dogs I am pet-sitting on their morning constitution to the accompaniment of an orchestra of castanets, produced by the residual overnight rain, lazily making its way down through the Redwood, Pine and Oak forest canopy who has apparently hoarded this delectable juice like forbidden Halloween candy, grudgingly letting loose of it despite the fear of a drought of sweets.I give thanks for the share.

Brilliant clusters of Toyon berries pierce the low blanket of fog and rich earthy hues growing solidly around us. The one hound is tethered by a recent surgery and a leash. The other, a lithe, black shadow to begin with, crosses repeatedly into the netherworld over the side of the steep road, gleefully teasing us with her ambition. Wet enough, we head back. A round of biscuits, barkeep!

Not being the first time holding vigil at my friends’ home, I dedicate this place to “working on my book.” Well, I do have the best of intentions. I diligently pack boxes of references materials (“Let me help you bring in your things before we go, Dianne!” “Oh, no, that’s okay…don’t want you to think I’m moving in or anything…”). After the beasts and I are all fed, I set up my laptop, neatly arrange notebooks and scraps of “meaningful papers,” apply my best OCD skills to the hard and softbound tomes and sit down, ready to dig in. Gee, maybe I’d better go into town to get provisions before the road gets too slippery.

Sigh. What if my friends stop vacationing and I lose this opportunity!?

I tell massage/hypnosis clients, “You can only take one breath at a time. And so it is with all of life- break it down into manageable bits. Have a goal, but keep it in your peripheral vision, focus on just the next step ahead or it becomes too easy to trip up.

So, here I am, pecking away at my laptop, the wood stove is cranked up, my cup of tea is at my elbow and the words seem to be flowing. That seems to be to be the best place to start.

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The Long-winded Christmas Letter of 2015

I was going to write a letter, a laundry list of what did and didn’t happen this year but decided to bring it to you live and direct, runny nose, distractions and all. Enjoy! (I lost track of how many times I said “amazing” in this…. be my guest in counting)

OH, did I forget to mention I got run over by a fully loaded parade float on Labor Day weekend at the Pinedorado Parade in town? They call me “Speedbump”….seriously, hurt like a %(%^% but miraculously nothing was broken. Lots of soft tissue stuff. I guess I don’t know how to break…

IMG_2642 On my way back from Esalen (where I took a course in EFT with Dawson Church of EFT Universe), I stopped at the New Camaldoli Hermitage to take in the view- panoramic of the hills and Pacific Ocean

Meet Montgomery Bobcat (Monty Bob) and Marley. From two different homes (a friend and the rescue place). Born in April….WAY fun. My three hens don’t pay them any attention and the kitties realized the girls were far out of their league

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Poor Anke….I don’t think she realized what she’d signed up for when she hooked up with this family, ahahahaha

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Zachary and Casey in Portland (where they met), before moving back to her home state of HawaiiIMG_1246

One of my forged bracelets: Sterling silver sheet, air chased and reticulated (trust me, anything using torches and hammers is fun…)

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This year’s Christmas card- my artwork and photography collaged…

card

So, I’m getting ready to go see Star Wars with Woody, Miles’ dad and Craig, Zachary’s dad called. “You know, this is probably the best Christmas! Not so much for being with anyone, just in that, both boys are on their own adventures and pretty happy…that’s just great!” And you know, he is absolutely right. Merry Christmas everyone!

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A heavy duty spring…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.”

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One might not consider having four pounds of rocks in your pockets the ideal way to put a spring back in your step, but I find myself nearly giddy with the possibilities as I skip back uphill the two blocks from Moonstone Beach to my house. My workspace is cluttered with bits of “making” materials, splattered with sludge around where I’ve been drilling holes using my Foredom and a bowl of water and the hum of the vibrating rock tumbler accompanies the task. I say “task” because it certainly is no “chore” to take my time figuring out just the right placement of the hole, practicing patience in not pushing the drill bit too hard (letting the weight do most of the work that I don’t ruin too many diamond drill bits) and basking in satisfaction when a piece of jewelry is complete. I bask in satisfaction of just having a successful treasure hunt and merely fondling the little treasures! My meditation/therapy? Sorting. And then sorting again….sizes, colors, potential projects. And then I move them around again. Just for fun.

Design tip: sort your finds however you desire and then lay them out on packing tape to keep them together until you get to that project! Kind of reminds me of those candy dots stuck to paper strips that you peel off… these will be wabi sabi earrings, I think 🙂

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Putting the Wichita Lineman out of a job…

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As the new year has dawned, so has it on me that I desire to write more, set my heart free and nurture my spirit and free will more thoroughly. I’m not sure what that all means but art and writing are certainly integral to that goal. It’s not a resolution but a process, a direction I set my intentions on each day. I heard it put somewhere recently that a goal is something  that can be changed if something better comes along. I like that. I like this photograph, too. This is at one of my local grocery stores here in town, a community of bright, creative souls….isn’t it obvious? Seems like a good place to me to be nurtured…. Oh, wait! It HAS done so for over 33 years!

How to make a tin can phone (minus the now-defunct public booth):

Take two soup cans or heavy duty plastic or paper cups. CAREFULLY punch a hole in the middle of the bottom of each. Get some good string, not thin and flimsy and easily breakable but not as heavy as clothesline, about 15 feet long or so. Experiment with longer first and then shorter (too short and you wind up cheating because you’re standing right next to the person and you can hear them clearly). Tie a know in one end. Feed the loose end through the hole in one can/cup. Pull though until the knot stops it. Feed the loose end through the hole in the other can/cup. Pull through enough to be able to make a good knot. Now, you and your friend each take a can/cup and move away from each other until the string is taut. One of you put your ear to the can/cup the other one gets to say something secret or silly into the other….. The vibrations along the line let you actually hear each other. Simple amusement number 372. 🙂

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San Simeon’s Own Push-me Pull-you? And, no, it’s not Photoshopped…

Mother Nature's illusion

Mother Nature’s illusion- I was dumbfounded to see how their stripes lined up perfectly!

Okay, I must be honest…. I never get tired of seeing these creatures in my “back yard.” After almost 33 years here in Cambria, CA, driving north a few miles and catching site of these black and white beauties still amuses me. This particular morning, Monday, I had to drive up to San Simeon (where this is shot), to pick up my Booty Bootcamp Buddy, Bambi, (just had to get all that alliteration in there, hahahaha…) at 5:45 a.m. and saw a really large herd silhouetted against the rising sun. “I must come back after class with my camera!” I exclaimed.

Indeed there was enough time before my first early morning gig to do my best impression of a tourist and clattered through the weeds along the highway for the best vantage point. Unfortunately, there are a lot of power lines that kind of make this less than perfect but I did what I could. One just starts shooting, right? Little did I know how cool some of the photos (in my humble opinion) would be until I got them onto a screen larger than a panty liner. OH, how fun! These are my favorites.

Grazing

BUTT keeping an eye on me all along

 

 

Being terribly fond of patterns and texture, aside from the instantly recognizable stripes, her tail design is beautiful, I think. I also think she looks like she’s about to drop a foal any minute! How these exotic creatures came to even be here is due to the late William Randolph Hearst (Hearst Castle State Historic Monument is here) and his private zoo. After his passing in 1951, most of the animals were sent elsewhere. However, the zebra were set free and have thrived ever since. I’m not sure of their numbers but they have made their way onto several ranches for miles and miles around.

group shot

 

What with the heatwave we’ve been experiencing here along the central coast, it is almost easy to imagine driving through the Serengeti, well, until I looked to the left and saw the Pacific Ocean right there. Minor detail.

“This is how we use these manmade things to our advantage!” Using the wire as a scratching post, looking to rearrange her stripes?

Obviously I’m not a professional photographer but my zoom was strong enough to at least let me get this much closer. What a lovely way to start the day! You can make your own little zebras (or horses or unicorns!) with some recycled cardboard from your cereal or cracker box, embroidery thread, a tiny hole punch, scissors, pens and 2 clothespins:

As you can see, I’m no Van Gogh when it comes to drawing, BUT, the basic shape of a lovely, primitive type horse is a large peanut shape for the body, with two slanting lines for the neck and kind of a bean/oval shape for the head. Triangles are fine ears. Draw these in pencil on the cardboard and cut out. With the pen, add eyes and whatever expression you feel this particular day. Hopefully it’s always happy. Or at least happy now that you’re doing something creative! Don’t fret about the legs yet, that will come!

cartoon horse

My horse has obviously had too many snacks. Oh, well. Cut out your shape. Now, with a little hole punch or a heavy needle, punch a hole on her rump for the tail and several on her neck for her mane. Thread embroidery thread or any old string or yarn through the holes for her hairy parts. Wait ’til you get older, girls….never mind. If you really have no string, while you are drawing the initial body shape, add a big triangle for the tail and cut along with the rest of her. Use your imagination for the mane. 🙂

Now, clip on the clothespins for legs! Easy, huh? If you don’t have clothespins, cut a large-ish triangle of cardboard, one for the front legs and one for the rear legs. Cut about a fourth of the tip off. Make a small slit at the top  and slip the body into it. Hope that makes sense… Using your markers, draw on Zebra stripes or spots, color to your heart’s content. OH, if you wanted a unicorn, draw the cone shape on her forehead before you cut her out!  What will you name her?

The really fun part? Go play!

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