the women

this morning i went back to my woods,
woods that feel so very me because they are natural yet
within sight of a strip mall.
oddly, I don't mind a strip mall.
for me, "sprawl" is just code for "people nearby."
i'm not sure whether the trees were left there and cleared around,
or planted for aesthetics,
but it doesn't matter to me really.

what matters, is they stand
some spaced away, some paired like friends
no obvious pattern that I have found...

today I named them sisters,
they're female I just feel it.
each beautiful in her own way.

one at a permanent lean like the friend that listens hard to you
leaning into your experience, bearing it with you.
another, bark burnt and peeling, but still standing strong
as if no end is in sight.
her neighbor, a short oak, leaves springing out,
lively and alert, the extrovert watching for any chance of a party.
all still leaved, even in October,
which seemed cocky of them in a fun way.

now that I think about it, the grove seems too established to have been planted recently,
some older than others, which is how women should live in a village
the older and the younger reminding each other of wisdom and fun
trading it back and forth, not necessarily according to age

my favorite (today) is the only one I named:
kakini:  the dancer.
curved with branches bending but reaching up
the way I dance when I can stop thinking.
she was cheerful, but in no way simple.
she knows things.

she stood close to one you wouldn't notice at first,
slim, but not an eye-catcher, demanding no attention.
but looking up, I saw she was the only one in a grove of thirty with large leaves,
really large...distinctive,
like magnolia leaves on a different trunk
impressive, but not noisy about it.
maybe kakini knew and was drawn up close.

or maybe she didn't know.
I stood there and wept feeling at home,
speaking to them and thinking I'd known for awhile now that were I a tree nymph
so many more things would make sense.

I was content at first enjoying them, but eventually wanted them to speak and be sentient
I wondered if this was the beginning or end of my sanity.
wanting for a moment to be the kind of person who believes nature speaks, then feeling
disappointed in myself because I don't think that's really quite how it works.

but the disappointment passed quickly, because something is going on there,
something beyond the tangible and stationary.
I saw, and that matters.
I see often, and I'm grateful. 
I see with my heart and I know that place is special.
something meant for me I uncovered--
or maybe I even made it something,
and that's no small thing to begin to believe I am not passive in this world.

the women
the grove
five months ago, I came thinking the women were the fairies who might flit among them.
That's a lovely image, but now I see us as the trees.
something has changed in me.
I felt it in my feet planted solid on the ground, straightening my shoulders
and turning my face up into the mist,
noticing they were doing the same.

maybe in five more months, i'll return and see half the trees as men living and sharing and being friends with us,
I can see the edge of those feelings some days, fear fading,
other days not at all.
if it happens, it will be okay for then.

but today, I will take my daughter, a lithe little tree in her own right,
to play a sport with her peers.
I will watch them move and play and work and laugh
laughing and smiling,
noticing and encouraging each other even in the missed shots
a totally communal experience.
some slightly apart by choice,
some paired with friends, the arm patters and huggers
but all a part of that little grove in their own way.

ninja in a matchbox

i look at this little ninja in this matchbox trundle bed
and i think of yesterday...the day before that and of all the days that i
wind myself up with " i should haves" and "failed tos,"
self-flagellating with "i'll nevers" and "if onlys," until i'm in such a state
of flailing that i can't come back to any sort of calm.
like when you see a toddler that only needs a nap
or a device that needs a reset, because they're stuck or stymied.
these are the times that i joke "if you really loved me, you'd hit me
in the head with a hammer, so i could be unconscious until this passes."

but what i really need is someone to take my sword gently from my hand,
put it on a high shelf out of sight,
until i remember it's to be used rarely, and even then,
only against great injustices and never against myself or the people i love.
maybe hide it in a cabinet, because i'm quick to take it back.
and maybe even lock that cabinet because i'll probably guess which cabinet,
and i'm not above sneaking.

just lead me over to the safe little bed with the clean soft sheets.
i won't want to get in, so you'll need to be patient, 
but i've lived enough to know what i need.
and i will comply if i know you love me...
if i really really know you do and aren't just tucking me away
because i'm being noisy.
maybe a hand on the frowny forehead
so those knitted brows can untangle
and once they're straight or at least straighter,
you can crawl in beside me
or carry on with your day.

that's all i need really.
and when you do, i'll try to be really good at returning the favor.

bridges, not jeff

My friend Deedee and I shared almost the exact phone number as kids.  We lived three hours from each other, and didn't know this fact until we met in our 20s.  That number however, was a tiny wink, a clever commonality that we enjoy.  Personally, I hoard it as treasured proof that someday we would meet and become fast and forever friends.
Because I'm dramatic.  In my opinion, these clever winks are bridges to one another.

I picture us as individuals on islands.  New relationships begin when we make small steps towards another person.  I like to picture these steps as slats of a bridge, being laid piece by piece towards one another's island.  Many things might constitute a slat of bridge being laid:  common interests, similar struggles, shared experiences, or silly tiny winks of sameness like a shared childhood phone number.  Almost anything could support a slat when you are open to the relationship.

Some bridges are built easily and quickly.  Two people click and have so much in common they feel the slats can't be laid quickly enough.  The bridge is built so fast that by the time two such people meet in the middle, they cannot remember a time it didn't exist.

Other bridges require patience and perseverance.  Sometimes we are cautious.  Maybe we've been hurt by people...maybe we've never experienced a good strong bridge.  When someone begins building one towards us, we are pleased, but surprised.  They must take their time, laying slats slowly while we learn to trust them.

Today, however, I'm not thinking so much of bridges in new relationships.  I'm thinking of damaged ones.  Bridges in broken friendships, strained marriages, frail-and-weakening paths between parents and children...these bridges are on my mind today.

Sometimes I think the problem is that we try to rebuild or duplicate bridges in hurting relationships, instead of beginning new construction with a person.  Maybe trying to patch a broken bridge is like trying to build a sandcastle with dry loose grainy sand.  It looks like it should work, but things just keep shifting and sliding out of place.

What if there is a more creative option?  Maybe rebuilding old bridges is aiming low.  Maybe some bridges are desolated, and we are better served by starting new ones with that person.  I don't picture us having only one bridge to a person.  In my mind, I see a number of a network of blood vessels or branches on a tree growing and reaching towards their goal.  Because, like the people they reach, bridges can be rich and varied, specific and personal.  There are many ways to connect with someone.  Why place all our efforts in one area?

Here is where it behooves you to believe there is something larger than you at work in the universe.  Sure, building a new bridge to a new person can be challenging.  But building with a person where bridges are decayed or even annihilated?  Well, you're not going to want to do that on your own, Honey.  Trust me.

But if we are creative, artistic and strong - and I believe we are...I think we have hope.  I believe there is someone or something(s) in the universe that helps us along.  Those forces are in the business of building from scratch.  I believe that no one knows better what bridges work to reach us than the creator of our unique hearts, minds and personalities. 

In this world, we are endlessly pursued.  Even if you cannot name it, you can feel it at times.  Something reaches towards us over and over...sings to us through the birds, whispers secrets to us in the wind, pats our backs through friends, and sometimes speaks through poetry or music that pierce our hearts, make us sit up in surprise and say, wide-eyed,"That was for ME, wasn't it?"

And it doesn't give up after one attempt at building a bridge to our hearts.  Maybe that is what we need to hear when our bridges are failing. 
We don't get only one chance,
and we don't build alone.

There are a few ways to focus on The Present and "Just Being."
Some of them are good and some of them are dangerous,
[She announced as if she were a fancy emotional scientific doctor person].

Good Ways:
One of the hardest things is to stay in the present and "just be."
Trying to do it has gotten me through some hard times.  Like Kimmy Schmidt turning that crank in the bunker, there have been seasons where I persevered by telling myself, "I can do anything for 10 more seconds.  And when that 10 seconds is over, I'll just start a new 10 seconds."
I get that.
It's helpful.  Sometimes it's the only way to move through a day or week or year.

"Practicing Mindfulness" is all the rage now too.  Within one week, I had two doctors and a counselor suggest it to me.  You pay attention to that kind of repetition in your life.  Either you need to consider what is being suggested, or you need to quit being so chatty, because everyone is telling you basically, "Hey, why don't you go sit still and be quiet for awhile?" You may as well try it.  Don't dig too deep into their intentions.  As far as I can tell, practicing mindfulness results in a lot of:  getting in the moment; feeling your feelings; breathing; and being aware of your body.
All good things.
I'm a big fan.

I like these two approaches because 1) Good coping mechanisms, and 2) Being more in tune with what is going on in and around me helps me make better choices and feel calmer.  This is a win-win for me and anyone who has to spend more than 30 seconds around me.

Dangerous Ways:
Recently however, I realized something that makes me nervous.
At times, I've used "focusing solely on the present," in a way that hurt me instead of helped me.  I used it like blinders.  In hindsight, I know why.  I was confused personally and spiritually.  I couldn't make sense of certain things, so I put on blinders so that I could see nothing besides the tiny world around me.  This too was a coping mechanism.  I did the best I could, and I'm not sorry necessarily, but it's not ideal.

Years ago as a new mom, I read that newborns sometimes sleep as a way of shutting out too much noise or stimulation.  Maybe this is why when you take your newborn to a party, all your friends say, "He's such a good sleeper!  You're so lucky!" Then you go home, and that baby is awake all night.  His system shut down for the party, because it was protecting him from all the action.  But later, he is ready to party like a drunken monkey, because he rested while a million people were tickling his feet.
*Sidenote:  Don't tickle newborns.  They can't even push you away with their little useless hands.  You hate being tickled.  Don't be an asshole.

Like a newborn, when things are too much, cope how you can.  But don't confuse this with healthy "staying in the present."  Blinders-mode is different.  Blinders can be rationalizing.  Mix this with an unhealthy dose of skewed theology, and you've got potential for a real Molotov cocktail.

In my mind, for years, I have had a resounding gong of "GOD IS SOVEREIGN."
I believed God knew everything would happen before it did, and was in control at all times.  Nothing happened that he didn't allow or approve.  Even if it was something horrible--even if it I believed it was a tragedy he wept over--underlying his sorrow, there was ultimately his approval of the situation if he chose not to prevent it.  I believed that. 

Is his allowance of something the same as his will?  Well, you can spend years banging your head against the wall along with a million other theologians trying to split that hair.  I have.  And I don't have the answer.  And if you have the answer, well...don't tell me.  I just don't care right now. 
That's not the point I'm trying to make.

Do I have a point, you may ask.  Newborns, drunken monkeys, what is even going on here...

My point is that you can be in a very bad situation.  You can look, within the confines or your "blinders," and see only the scope of your limited vision.  You can pray for help in the situation, for grace to keep turning that crank, and you can RECEIVE the help and fortitude to keep going. 
This is good.  This is coping.  If you believe in God and in his provision, you may believe this is his grace and strength provided for you to survive in a challenging situation. You may even thrive somewhere challenging.  You may see good things happen in the situation, progress, personal growth and blessings on the people around you within the situation. 

However, don't mistake provision and grace in a situation as his or the universe's stamp of approval on the situation.  A terrible job, a bad relationship, a personal or wide-scale tragedy...good things WILL happen in them.  Provision will come in small or large ways, and prayers for help will be answered.
This does not mean things are okay.

With blinders on, you can survive quite awhile on these provisions and answered prayers.  However, if you don't look up, around and outside of the present...if you don't take a step back and scan the horizon and talk to someone outside of that moment and limited scope, you can be stuck in The Present focusing on "Just Being" and think it's okay.

It's not always okay.  Sometimes things are bad.  Eventually that will back up on you.  A person can only believe "the bad" is God's will for them so long before it alters how they feel about God.  For me, I begin to believe either he is not good, doesn't love me like i believed, or doesn't exist at all.

Some of you don't struggle with this.  Some of you aren't even bothered with whether God exists or not.  I get that.  Sometimes I envy it.  But for others of us, I think we have swallowed down that God- is-Sovereign-Pill in a way never intended.  Because he is with you and helps you, doesn't mean he doesn't want change or justice.  Sometimes I think he wants us to stand up off that yoga mat and start making changes.  The mindfulness and calm will help you do that.
Just don't stop there.

I spent (still spend if I'm honest) so much time watching for signs that I'm on the right track or wrong track.  Signs aren't always a good litmus test.  You don't say, "Well, the house hasn't burned down.  I guess I'll keep living here," or "The company is making a profit, so that's a sign that it is the place for me," and "We saw light in people when they helped in that natural disaster, so it all worked out for good." 
God and the universe sometimes give you signs and sometimes don't.
Not everything is a sign.
Not every blessing is a message to continue on a path.
I don't have a good wrap up sentence, so I'll leave you with this:
I think a drunken monkey sounds really funny, but monkeys are pretty funny even sober.  Don't get one for a pet though.  I don't trust them.  I saw one steal a man's footlong corndog once at the fair.  Was it hilarious?  Lord, yes.  But do you really want to live in constant fear for your corndog?
I didn't think so.



CAMPFIRE - Rend Collective

I don't know much about god or religion anymore.
I certainly don't profess to have a clear answer on jesus...
except I like him.
I think he would've liked me and you.
and I like this still.
The only beef I've got with it, is the "ugliness" can harp on original sin all day, but when a baby is born, if there's a heaven, I believe people are stompin' and laughin' and cryin' and singin'...nobody's wringing their hands over the state he/she/they/bae is in.

(there's even a little banjo in there)

Bird and Lemon and Moby Dick

Moby Dick Book Club.
Gang reenacts book, but everyone skimmed except Lemon who accidentally rented a movie.

Bird: Call me Ishmael.
Whale: Ima eat yo leg.
Lemon: Did someone order a pizza? [bom chicka bom bom...Lemon winks seductively]
Bird: Did you get the movie again?
Bird: It's not that porn with techno soundtrack.

Pig: pizza?