I am thinking about how much better off we all are when we focus on our aptitudes and gifts – we project optimism and the world sees and experiences energy that can be employed in positive ways in contrast to feeling stressed and tired over trying to be who we are not – attitudes that cast shadows on the universe and serve no one.
Celebrate your differences – free yourself from thinking you must conform – instead, focus on what is positively different about you. Why would anyone want to put forth an effort to be something they are not divinely designed to be? And how are all of these stereotypical lifestyles perpetuating? Who’s making all of these rules – and why are we buying the propaganda? We speak of the “dumbing down” in terms of education, but how about the “dumbing down” of society and our willingness to buy all of this marketing? Heck, yahoo even tells me the 10 jobs that would make me happy!! What??? We are all individuals and the only “rule” we have is to become our best self. Steven Pressfield says it best – “ Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.“ or as Pablo Picasso’s mother told him – “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” Thank God he did not grow up in this stereotyped, status quo, plastic society we have succumbed to.
I am putting together my pantry, my medicine cabinet. I have turned a rather big plot of land into an orchard and a vegetable garden. The fruit trees are young, some are just planted and the garden soil needs some amending but over time, it should all be very productive and should keep me healthy. It makes me so happy to see it grow and to plan for each season. A garden benefits you two ways – the exercise you get from working in it and of course, the produce it produces. Anyway, once again, I am motivated to plant a garden. I continue to have high expectations there amongst the honey bees and clover.
“I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green”.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse
flowers from elizabeth
I wish I could remember more about her, like her name, was she a mother, what kind of house did she live in, but I can’t and it was very long ago and there is no one left to ask. It was the summer of 1974 and I was an art student in Nice, France – the Cote d’Azu (a moment I am so grateful to my parents for , for they sacrificed financially to give it to me). Anyway, every week day morning my friend Kathy and I would walk from our room at the Universite de Nice to a second floor studio with huge windows and tremendous light. Our journey would take us through the French Market in downtown Nice. There were colorful market umbrellas and plucked chickens hanging upside down, color wheels of vegetables from the neighboring countryside, Frenchmen speaking so quickly and bargaining so loudly and there were flowers, buckets and buckets of fresh cut flowers and everyone bought a bouquet; everyone had fresh flowers on their table each night for dinner. The personification of this sensual experience could be found in one of our models. She too would walk through the market each weekday morning. Along the way she would gather fresh fruit and baguettes and of course, fresh flowers. She carried it all in an oversized straw bag that was very old and full of character and the day’s supply of food. She wore a summer dress of sorts, one very simple and minimal, for she was a nude model and she was able to dismiss it without much effort or fumbling. She had sandals on her feet and her hair was gray and loosely gathered in a large clip; again, easy to take out and tumble on her shoulders and cast shadows and interesting lines for us to sketch. The thing I remember most about her was her smile, the radiance she brought to class each morning, as we stood behind our easels, still sleepy from the night before, and there she was with flowers and joie de vivre; content to be exactly where she was. She could not speak much English, but that was okay, her smile spoke of life and passion and happiness. I remember thinking she must have been “old” to be a model, especially a nude model, but she was so comfortable with whom she was and that transformed into a thing of beauty. I am probably nearing the age now that she was then and I reflect on who she was; someone, I suspect, who had sorted out all of the foolishness in life and was capturing the core, each morning, each day with flowers in her old straw basket and simplicity in her life.
The Ides of March have passed and St Patrick’s Day is here. March, the month that comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. The month that my mother and my twins were born and the month I was married, the month the plum trees blossom and the clovers cluster just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, and the Full Worm Moon is in the sky. So much beauty happens in March and it is going so quickly away and I am so sorry to see it go. The sweet white blossoms have been shaken by the late winter wind and are on the ground, the bareness of winter is nearly gone and the new green of spring is peeking through the woods, making promises to us. I am trying to notice all that I can for it is all so fleeting and fast. Each time I turn over a scoop of dirt, I see fat earthworms wiggling but just for a second, the hens quickly see their movement and they, well, you know what they do. But then, we get the eggs, eggs filled with golden yokes and nourishment. The strawberries I so painfully planted in November now have little white flowers assuring me of red strawberries in June and the pear trees are filled with tiny pears that can hardly be seen now but will produce more pears than we can eat in August. I love all of the tiny holidays like St. Patrick’s and April Fools -no one has figured out a way to make them too commercial yet – they are still pure. Anyway, time for work. It is so difficult to leave these spring days and enter into a building where I don’t know if it is hot or cold, windy or calm outside. I question myself daily about this choice.
The moon was right above and it lit up the garden enough for me to see the “girls” in the coop waiting for me to lock them up, to make them safe. It is such a ritual, every night I walk in the garden and close the door to the chicken coop. it says day is done for me. Rituals, routines, so comforting. It is something we do that is normal and expected in this sometimes not so usual universe. I see myself years from now in my garden guided by the moonlight while closing the little door to the chicken house – it connects now with then – the ritual lights the path. Of course I write these words and think of the displaced people in Japan; even the simple rituals like a morning cup of coffee are gone, rituals that would help them feel just a tiny bit better amongst the horror that is their lives. How wonderful would a cup of coffee would be for those people? I thought of that while I had an afternoon cup on my swing in the glory of early spring – a near perfect moment, a moment spent in ritual.
I try not to worry so much and I am getting much better – mostly because I have devalued so many “things” and because I have enough years behind me to realize it is a total waste of time. I stumbled upon this little statement – I am paraphrasing – it goes something like this:
Worrying is your imagination creating things you don’t want.
I think my imagination can be used in a better way.
There are no answers. We spend our lives asking questions but no one has been able to come up with the answer key. Minds far greater than mine have thought and pondered and died…never returning to let us know if they were right. I suppose that is why really old people, at least the ones that have been observant, are great sources of wisdom and while they don’t have “the answers”, they can make better assumptions. There are messages in their stories and lessons from their lives, but who even listens – youth is being carelessly spent on worldly things.
It can be so Shakespearean…
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
ok, this is deep and dark and Shakespeare is scary and tragic…I will take the antithesis of this projection and flood my day with light.
I have a lot of questions today; it is a day without a job, a day to be with my thoughts…here’s one I ask myself:
Not now, so, when?
Confusing, that is how we can make life.
I just want to have lots of time to piddle – to go through the last 25 years and sort and frame and store and disgard and remember. I see how life goes so quickly and how we put cherished things aside like photos and friends and Easter bonnets and we stack them high and stash them deep in closets and up on shelves thinking we will get to it later and then later is 25 years and they have become the piles of our lives, the trail of bread crumbs that take us back. I am serious about tending to them. I have, by now, seen life begin and end and I know the time in between is short – I don’t need a quote by Emerson to remind me – I want to see about the piles I have left behind in corners so that the places up ahead can be my focus. Put things to rest and clear the path ahead… I want this but it may not be something I can achieve for time and sentiment burdens me. I know this about myself and constantly struggle with this conflict – I somehow know which part of me will win – it will be the soppy side of me that is left standing when it all is done. I just know that.
And I want to paint – just for the pureness of it and so that there is something on the wall to remind someone of me. Narcissistic? Maybe, but maybe just artistic?
“This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt-sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whip-poor-will is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled. These small waves raised by the evening wind are as remote from storm as the smooth reflecting surface. Though it is now dark, the wind still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still dash, and some creatures lull the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete. The wildest animals do not repose, but seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk, and rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They are Nature’s watchmen — links which connect the days of animated life.”
From Walden – Thoreau
new life…baby chicks