PAUSE

I remember the sensation of abject terror; fluttering heart and shaking legs as I looked over the valley. Once I felt steady, I pushed the edge of fear even more, and closed my eyes. Immediately the vertigo hit, the feeling rushing through me as I stood a few inches from the edge. I settled into the darkness, comfort in the familiar sound of my breath, settling my heart and bringing me to the place of knowing that I was so much more than the frail vessel poised on the edge of the cliff. If my body had fallen, my soul was prepared to fly. Little did I know how quickly that time would come.

A few months later I began the process of moving into my new home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Alone.

December 2, 2021 as I was starting to settle into my new life as a retired single woman, my titanium hip implant broke while I was brushing my teeth. I underwent a complicated revision surgery, spent nine weeks using a walker, and started carefully rebuilding strength and flexibility in my body. I had my legs knocked out from under me, physically and emotionally. I am discovering that there is a lot to learn from this plot twist. Lessons I thought I had learned were not deep enough.

I’ve plummeted to the earth more than a few times in my life, each time rising from the ashes stronger and wiser. This is the time of pause, gathering my wits about me, shaking off the residual effects of the crash. The threads of fear and confusion are like smoke slowly drifting into the bright light of clarity.

to fall so far into the dark

that the only way to live

is to launch from the ledge

and fly

heart open mind clear

(Phoenix Clarity)

The Mandala Year

It started with rocks.

Keely was coming to visit and I wanted to find a creative activity that we could share. I’ll never know where the idea came from, but I thought gathering rocks from the river together and then painting them would be something that we would enjoy. I found that mandala dot painting was a thing, so I bought some stencils, acrylic paint and dotting tools.

We spent hours on the deck, talking, painting, showing each other our work. There was a lot of laughter. It was one of those glowing golden days that will always be tucked into my treasured memories box.

August 2019 the day it all began

I became obsessed with mastering the technique of dot mandala. For six, eight, ten hours a day I painted dots on rocks. I took over the dining room table. I gathered rocks in town, when I traveled. There were rocks in the kitchen sink, stacked on the deck, piled in the spare bedroom.

I learned to start with a dot in the middle. I learned about the sacred geometry that is the basis of mandala. I learned which paints worked with the technique, which kind of rock surface was best.

I found the joy of creativity and art again.

My move to Pagosa Springs that year had given me the opportunity to create space for new. To throw out patterns and habits that reflected who I had been, not who I now wanted to be.

I stopped playing pickleball and immersed in yoga. I bought a drafting table, special lights, magnifying classes. The upstairs became my studio. I read about chakras and energy , and went down a path into what Steve calls “woo woo stuff”.

Kat and Keely helped me hide them in Little Rock and took a basket full of them to Louisville for distribution.

If you came to our house, you left with a mandala rock. When we went to Arkansas and Alabama we transported baskets of rocks. I gave them as gifts to friends, family, salespeople that I connected with, perfect strangers were given rocks.

One of my rocks is part of the memorial to Breonna Taylor in Louisville. I cried when I saw it.

Friends in Alabama hid some rocks along the TVA hiking trail. An old friend of Steve’s found it and they reconnected on Facebook as a result.

I ordered marble and slate tiles to paint for use as coasters. Then ceramic tiles for purely decorative display. I painted ornaments. Next came canvas.

When the pandemic hit, I was searching for ways to help. I donated tiles to a local restaurant to be sold, all proceeds going to help their staff.

Over 40 tiles were sent to Louisville as a fundraiser for The Louisville Youth Group, an organization that supports LGBTQ+ youth.

And then it happened.

This was my first canvas. I laid it on the table in my studio, which was stacked with tiles. As I was moving things around, I put one of the round tiles on top of the canvas and I did a double take. Because of the sacred geometry of the mandala, the lines and shapes worked to create a new mandala. A 3D mandala tile and canvas. My heart started beating faster and I knew I was on to something. I had come up with a completely different way to create art.

This is how the idea happened, I placed a tile on this canvas

There was a learning curve. The obsession deepened. Hours were spent “playing” with tiles. Finding which designs worked with what, how the colors blended or contrasted. How to put the pieces together securely but with the ability to interchange.

It’s hard for me to let go of these pieces. Each mandala is a glimpse into my soul. I paint with the door open to my mountain, the dogs sleeping, the horses letting me know every time I walk outside that they would like a cookie please. Noodles honks contentedly and noodles around in the pasture beside the deck. New Age music plays a background to the call of the birds and the skitter of the Abberts squirrels.

I paint my interpretation of the seasons in Pagosa Springs. I paint the flags of LGBTQ+. I paint my love of the culture of the Southwest. I paint gratitude and love and joy. I paint with a specific person in mind, hoping to infuse my art with my love for them.

I’m running out of wall space.

UPDATE: I’m now living in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can find my art at

The Bramble Market

https://www.thebramblemarket.com/

Dandelion Home and Garden

https://www.facebook.com/dandelionhomeandgarden/

Gravitate Towards Joy

The air has a scent of crisp green, even in the afternoon it still smells pungent and fresh. Is there a smell to running water? Is there a special aroma of river water tumbling over rocks ? The smell of wood smoke lingers in the cool mornings, fading to a tendril of scent as the day warms.

I don’t watch for snakes. However I am on alert for the neighborhood mountain lion and the pesky bear that has been bothering the horses.

One of the little hills on my walk

Between a hip that needs to be replaced AGAIN, a torn quad that has been an issue for over fifteen years , two replaced shoulders and a knee that’s trying to go wonky on me, I have been frustrated, sad, angry and resentful. The last time I went on a hike it resulted in the painful rolling walk that those with hip pain recognize. For two weeks I struggled with sleeping, moving, walking. Couple this with birthdays that seem to be accelerating at an alarming rate, and let’s just say I have not been a happy woman.

So no more hikes. No mountain trail running. Instead I walk. I honor and listen to what the pain is telling me. I don’t ignore the sound of my body telling me it is hurt. Forty years of martial arts made me deaf to the voice of my muscles, tendons and joints telling me that “more is not better”.

One thousand pushups on New Years Day 2010.

Shoulders replaced four years later.

A few months into Covid I decided to do a little trail running course on our property, using our two steep driveways and stairs to give me several route and intensity combinations.

No surprise I overdid it and found areas of hurt and damage that I didn’t know were possible.

I’ve been a martial artist my entire adult life. I know about injuries and I know what to do. Back to basics.

Mick laughing at me

I walk. I honor and listen to the pain instead of ignoring and fighting it (and making it worse). I don’t treat my body as an opponent to be overpowered and forced into compliance.

There are enough areas with an incline to get my heart rate up. Especially if I go up and down several times in a row.

Mick has learned to lay splat on the soft ground and conserve his energy as I trudge up and down the

Hill.

Incline.

Mountain.

Mount Everest

Keep in mind that the mileage on those little legs is always at least twice that of my legs. Sometimes I walk backwards laughing as he races to catch up after following scent on the trail. Raccoon? Fox? Skunk? Squirrel? Bear? Mountain Lion?

I know the little pug sees and hears my effort and is amused.

My comical little pug , We amuse each other, Mick and I.

My yoga place

Long flat stones surrounded by deep pools and tumbling water. A canopy of trees. Blue sky, white clouds. Green in every variation of green.

On the river? In the river? What is the proper term for this magical place?

Standing in mountain pose, hands at my heart, head bowed in reverence to this place, this moment, this experience . Breathing deeply while my eyes are closed I listen to my breath and find myself. Opening my eyes I turn in a full circle. Mindful. In the moment.

The sound of the Rio Blanco as it makes its way through the valley. Birds. Insects. The feel of the sun. Air in my lungs scented with pine and fir.

As I go through the flow of my yoga practice on the rocks there is a connection to creation that is profound and magical. It is the sensation of being perfectly present and in the moment. Hearing my breath, smelling sun water and air, moving slowly through balance and strength. I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this time. There is pure joy and contentment as the sun smiles on my face.

Walk lightly. Speak and laugh lightly, as much as possible.Go lightly along your way. Let go of heaviness. Seek that which is light. Gravitate towards joy. Your soul and body will lead you, if only you would listen.

Melody Beattie , Journey to the Heart

Rio Blanco

Life in Pagosa Springs

I walk outside and I take a deep breath. There is first the deep green cedar smell, wet and dense. The smell of the woods, leaves and pine needles on the ground for that rich deep note, then the bright smell of cedarwood baking in the sun. My woods, my trees, my home on the side of a mountain. I tell people it smells like vacation to me. It smells like the trips to the Grand Canyon as a child, or the lodge at Yellowstone. Tents and campfires. It’s a different wood smell than where I grew up in Arkansas, where it was hot and humid.

I look at my house, barely visible in the trees on the side of the mountain as we drive by on our way to the mailbox. Yes, I pick our mail up from my post office box on the side of the road. If there is a package a key is left in my box. I open one of the four big metal postal boxes in the cluster to retrieve our parcels. Sometimes I have several keys for several boxes. I order a lot of stuff online.

It’s like living in a postcard.

At first I wanted to stop at every curve and twist of the road to take pictures. There was this need to share, to show this spectacular beauty to everyone I know. Photos from my iPhone can’t capture the depth and vastness of the views. The deep blue of the sky contrasting with snow capped mountains. Green forests, aspens blanketing the mountains with fiery displays of orange and yellow in the fall.

Aspens. I love aspen. I have aspen leaves tattooed on my arm. Did you know that aspens are the largest living organism in the world? Each stand of aspen share a single root system. They are a family of trees, an entwined sharing family.

there are aspen in my yard

they quake in the wind

Soft fluttery golden coins

their markings like petroglyphs

a secret language on bark

singing as i walk

i hear what they say

touching with reverence

as I breathe deep into my soul

there are aspens in my yard

Yesterday morning I left the house with anticipation about the big change. The change that will turn the shades of green to a mosaic of color as the leaves turn. I felt and smelled it, autumn is in the air. Cooler air at night and during the day, heaters turned on now in the house.

Then yesterday afternoon I could see it. Leaves turning yellow. I’m like a kid with my nose pressed against the car window, filled with excitement. Look at that! Did you see those?

I haven’t spotted a bear on our property. Yet.

I know they are around, the neighbors told me they saw a bear in my driveway a week before we closed on my house last year. Great measures have been taken to protect Noodles, the dogs and the horses from bears. There are multiple strands of electric fence, sturdy panels and houses for the dogs and the pig to keep predators away. We have rifles in virtually every room. Just in case.

I took down all of the hummingbird and bird feeders. I do not leave food of any kind outside or in the cars. I don’t want to be on the restaurant tour for bears getting ready for hibernation. I read the articles about protecting my property from bears. Don’t have lever type handles on your outside doors, the bears can open them.

A bear was in my house in the 1970’s. A friend of a friend on Facebook contacted me after we moved. She used to live in this house. How cool is that? She sent me pictures of snow almost to the roof of the house, and a picture of a Game and Fish Van in the driveway. When we talked on the phone she told me the story of the mama bear that climbed in through the window of the sun porch. Three times. She said the claw marks should still be in the windowsill. I was so disappointed that they had been changed out when the house was renovated a few years ago.

Last week I made gazpacho. As I chopped the vegetables I had a bowl for Noodle scraps and one for scraps that Noodles won’t eat. My pig is a picky pig, with a long list of vegetables that she will not eat. I think there is something profoundly hilarious that my family and friends will eat vegetables that my pig turns her snout up at.

I thought I would throw the beautiful yellow bell pepper scraps into the tomato and cucumber concoction that was in the Noodle bowl. I took the bowl outside for Noodles, there was no way I was going to feed tomatoes to her inside. The floor would look like bad things had happened to some creature.

An hour later I looked outside. The bowl was sparkling clean. Laying next to it the bright yellow of the bell pepper. Noodles tastes haven’t changed.

I was careful to pick up the bell pepper. Bears you know.

It’s been a year since we moved. A year of changing seasons and an snowy winter. I didn’t know about roof curl and had certainly never heard of a roof rake. Snow drift and roof curl got within a few inches of each other on one side of the house.

Did you know snow blowers need chains? We gave up on two of our driveways for the winter and parked down at the street. I had never shoveled snow, and certainly never imagined that I would do so on a pile over my head. I had never sunk down to my waist trying to brush snow off a satellite dish.

I loved it. Talk to me in a few years and that excitement might have waned, but I hope not.

There is an art to how to open and close windows to capture the cool of the night for the day. There is no air conditioning here. On my tree laden slope my house is cool even on the warmest days. Windows open at night i sleep under a down duvet, forest smells wafting through the room on the breeze. When i get up, Imake the bed and close the windows. A routine now.

Layers are my friend. Leggings, a tank top, my ugly but oh so comfortable Ugg boots, and a flannel shirt are year round wear in the house. I wear jackets as sweaters if I amoutside when the sun goes down, even in July. I hiked the last week of August on the Continental Divide and wore long pants and a coat. The week before it was shorts and a t shirt.

It’s been a year. We have our favorite restaurants. We are experiencing the ebb and flow of tourists in this little gem of a mountain town. We receive our weekly newspaper and check to see what festival or event is coming up. Summers are big here, Steve finally gave up on keeping track of the cars from out of state. Texans are a big fan of Pagosa.

There is no cell service at the house. I am careful to give very good directions, because if a visitor gets lost they have to drive back to town to call. Internet and phone service are maddening terrible everywhere here. The lack of quality service is on the front page of the newspaper and a constant complaint in the Opinion Section. I drive to town to one of the coffee shops to upload my blogs. Several haven’t been posted because I gave up in frustration. The more photos or videos the longer it takes. Most mornings Steve has to reset the router to get the internet working.

We drove to town last winter to watch a movie, even though it was snowing heavily. Yes, businesses stay open here when it snows. So do the schools. We walked outside after the movie, the snow had stopped and the town was just gorgeous with Christmas decorations and lights on the snow. We walked to the Jeep, the snow squeaking under our boots. The snow plows had already cleared the road home. Restaurants were open and doing a fine business.

Pagosa Springs is less than an hour from Wolf Creek Ski. Snow is good for our town.

Something about this little town in Colorado that speaks to my soul. I felt it as I came over Wolf Creek Pass last year. I spent a lot of time alone outdoors in the woods when I was young. I am taken back to those good times here.

There is a joy to living in Pagosa Springs. The people we meet are here by choice. They have been coming for years during the summer, always with the intention of retiring here. Or, like us, visited once and knew that this was The Place. Many have homes elsewhere, but are drawn to Pagosa and live here part of the year. Our friends are classified as seasonal or full time. Younger people move to work minimum wage jobs just so they can enjoy the outdoor activities and beauty.

If it is possible for a place to have magic, Pagosa is magical for us. There is a different rhythm to our life now. We are outside more, breathing deep and filled with gratitude. Maybe that is what the difference is. We both feel gratitude not only that we live here, but that we are experiencing it with each other. When you start your day with love and gratitude you change. You change your relationships, your view of the world, and yourself. You can’t help but change if you start your day happy.

POSTSCRIPT: The lady referenced above in the story about the bear wrote this (it wouldn’t post on WordPress)

From Pat Barbee:

I can’t seem to post on the blog – I have a WordPress account but after the sign-in, the comment disappears; so I’ll try here:

As always, your posts and blog can transport me to a singular moment of time in my life. I can actually smell the air, trees, damp (or dried) pine needles, feel the chill. The flannel shirt industry had a good chunk of our business!

I hope when you meet ‘your bear’ (more when than if) the experience is safe yet exciting. I’m curious, have you had owls in the garage yet?

I’m still hoping to get up there but it’s a bittersweet desire.

I don’t know your stance on spirit (angels, ghosts, tactile memories) but I know they exist and I know it will be emotional.

My reply:

It is uniquely special to get to share memories and experiences this way. I’m glad I was able to convey what you also felt. That is a special connection.

How I would love to have owls in the garage! Maybe if we leave the door open they will come?

I can’t tell you how happy I would be to have you visit. Yes I am spiritual and believe that energy and emotions can inhabit places. I know the spirit of your family is here for sure.

Lobo Pass Continental Divide Trail

Just before you get to Wolf Creek Ski on 160 from Pagosa is the road up to Lobo Pass Overlook. We drove up to the Cell Tower and hiked from there.

You can also access the Continental Divide Trail from the parking lot on 160. That is what I did on July 21 when I hiked with Margaret and Dave. Photos show the amount of snow that was still around. The road up to the Lobo Overlook was closed at the time because of snow. Yes, in July.

Today, September 7, 2019 there was no snow. Typical for Colorado the long sleeve shirt was off and on depending on the amount of shade and wind on the trail. It wasn’t a long hike, only a couple of miles, but there was a good amount of elevation change. We took a little off shoot trail that went pretty much straight up the mountain. At the top were some spectacular views.

If you are afraid if heights this probably in not a good hike for you. Some loose rock and gravel, so a hiking pole came in very handy a couple of times.

Thunderstorms were forming, and we did not want to get caught in one of those.

A wonderful hike, we remarked many times about how fortunate we are that we can still do activities like this, and that we live in such a gorgeous corner of the most gorgeous state in the Union.

In between is life

At our moment of birth we inhale. We leave with an exhale. In between is life.

I wish I could remember where I read this, and I’m sure it’s not an exact quote. But this statement resonated with me as I sat in my little sanctuary on the hill. My “gatreebo”. The funky quirky gazebo that was on our property when we bought it. We filled it with all kinds of stuff as we were moving to Pagosa Springs last September. Little did I know what a special place it would become. It’s got some slats missing and the door leans against instead of hanging. We will get around to putting it up one of the days. For now, it’s perfect as it is.

I’ve hung a banner and suncatchers.

Little metal horse earrings that Keely gave me for Christmas are tucked into the screen, they always make me smile.

I spend a lot of time here, shaded from the sun, my yoga mat and I. Reading. Meditating. Thinking. Crying. Sometimes taking a little nap. I’ve danced and swayed to music and emotions. I’ve screamed, laughed, and been deeply silent.

Time. Space. Freedom.

Big inhales of the deep cool green woodsy smell that always makes me feel like I am on vacation, that I am visiting a special place. I am always filled with gratitude and joy and a bit of surprise that this is the place I call home. If it is really possible to own a place on this planet, I own this partial side of a mountain with the sound of the river running always in the background.

This is the smell of my life, the space between that first inhale and the last exhale.

It’s been two weeks since I left Facebook.

What have I done with the time?

Yeah, I am purposely turning into that hippy new age woo woo kind of person that I use to ridicule. Funny how that works.

I’ve filled my mind with rich nourishing life changing wisdom in the book I’ve been reading and savoring.

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith.

Here is the link. ( I don’t make any money from this)

https://www.amazon.com/Eastern-Body-Western-Mind-Psychology/dp/1587612259/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3UCM9Z09OSUTY&keywords=eastern+body+western+mind+by+anodea+judith&qid=1564938279&s=gateway&sprefix=Eastern%2Caps%2C1145&sr=8-3

Savoring. It’s a word I’ve frequently used describing food. The mental image I have is closed eyes as I explore the taste and texture of food. That’s how it has been with this book, eyes open to read, perhaps just a sentence, sometimes a paragraph but then I feel the stab to the heart or gut that tells me to take my time. Process. Taste. Digest the truth written. Savor. Close my eyes and shut out everything but the sensation.

Sometimes I will go on a journey, drifting back to my childhood, looking at the strings of my life, pulling them in and opening the boxes.

You know those boxes don’t you? The boxes where you pack away your hurt? Your agonizing pain. Betrayal. Shame. Resentment. Jealousy. Lies.

I pull the string and open the box, I’ve forgotten exactly what is in it. But the tense feeling in my body and the unease in the pit of the stomach tells me that my body knows and remembers very well what is in that box.

What is packed away in those boxes is real and not real. My interpretation of events of my childhood is that of a child. I practice stepping back and looking at the incident from my view then, then that of the others in the memory. Usually my parents are the other characters in the playbook.

Instead of reliving my hurt and anger, I piece together the facts of what was going on in my parents lives to understand. To understand my dads anger, my mothers fear. I realize now I have repeated those emotions in my life and the things I did to my kids. To others. The mirror is true, reflecting generations of behavior. I blamed my dad, trumpeting my innocence and victimhood, all the while “forgetting” that I behaved in many of the same ways.

By opening the box I am able to forgive. Not only what happened to me, but to also forgive myself.

I take the hurtangershamefear and I face it. I look at it, turn it over, exam it closely. I cry. Deep agonizing sobs and sometimes screams. I face it, that which I fear. 5e bully that I have allowed. The bully that I created.

Once I do, I can let it go. There is no more power. There is acceptance and peace.

Now don’t get the idea that this has been all rainbows and unicorn farts. This process has brought new wounds, frustration between my goals and commitments and realty.

I’ve found it easy to commit to a new way of thinking and reacting in the sanctuary. I plan my words and plan my reactions. It never. Ever. Goes as planned.

Which is what life really is, isn’t it? An unplanned twisting and turning process of discovering the outside, and if we have the courage, the inside. To learn and if we care to, to gain wisdom. The surface that can be seen, and the inside which needs a special kind of vision. A vision that we are taught not to use.

Our emotions are a way that we communicate with ourselves. Yet we deny them. We lie about them. We put a label on them and we lock them away and we feel good about it. Yet we are creating our own blindfold so that we blindly stumble and bumble into the same hurtful patterns over and over. We blame anyone or anything but ourselves, because we choose to be blind.

In the martial arts I emphasized breathing. Breath and focus. Being relaxed makes you faster. Tight muscles move slower. Relax or you will wear yourself out. Your brain needs oxygen. All of the focus on the body. The opponent. The outward.

In yoga, I close my eyes and connect with my breath. I go inward, small, dark, close, intimate. Sometimes my movements and adjustments are minuscule, tiny and invisible from the outside. Aware and focused inward is a new way for me.

I find that sacred place between the inhale and the out. The space that is my life.

Trees and Solitude

Post Facebook Day One. This is harder than I thought it would be. I had weighed the pros and cons, but I don’t think I put enough emotional weight on the side of the true friendships that have grown over Facebook. Those names with the profile pic beside them that I have conversed with now for ten years. Or some that I have become very close to in the last year or so.

First day, I am in tears reading some of the comments and responses to my decision to leave Facebook. Really. It’s 3am, and that is what I am doing. I’m giving it a couple of days to acknowledge those friendships, and then that is it. I break the connection.

But the fact that one of the first things that popped into my mind was to check Facebook tells me I have made the right decision.

The thing is, I’ve been thinking of Facebook as some kind of entity in its own, as the enemy. The time and emotional vampire. But much of Facebook is made up of friends chatter about their lives. I’m really going to miss that connection. It’s not just news and memes and arguments and rants.

My world will be smaller now in many ways.

Which is why I am doing this I guess.

Turning inward. Striving for silence in my head. Silence to think and grow.

There is a part of me that yearns to be a hermit.

This need I have for aloneness and silence goes back to my childhood and teenage years. I’d get up in the dark, quietly leave the house, saddle up my horse and leave for the day. I would ride trails into the woods with no idea where I would end up. Just me and my horse. I’d eat a peanut butter sandwich under a tree while my horse grazed, looking up at the sun through the lace of the tree leaves.

I thought about all the things that teenagers are obsessed with. Boys. Parents. School.

I found God during those times. I remember being so angry with organized religion. With being told what to do, how to think. This was during the 70’s and there certainly is a little of the free spirit hippy in me. Probably a lot more than I knew then. The seeds of my outside the box thinking were planted during those lazy summer days when I had the gift of boredom.

My parents struggled financially. There were many material things that I wanted and didn’t get. There were times when we had to wait a few days to get groceries. We never went hungry but the cupboards were pretty empty at times. That is probably one of the reasons I’m concerned about kids not having enough to eat, and the homeless. I know how close we were when we were kids. I know how close I came a few times as an adult.

But I had a horse. My parents couldn’t buy a horse trailer, or take me to shows. I didn’t even have a saddle for years. But my parents gave me the incredible gift of freedom, responsibility and trust by allowing me to take off on my own for hours at a time.

Of course it had to end. I sold my horse to buy a car so I could work. I got wheels and the freedom that comes with a car. My life became one of work and school and friends. Not a lot of thinking and soul searching. No laying in the woods under a blue sky. Humid, hot as hell with a lot of bugs, but worth every minute of discomfort.

Now I walk out my door, up the hill of my backyard, and take a seat on my porch swing. And there I am. Different woods and trees, aspen and fir rather than oak and pine, but the sun is filtered through the trees and I can breath deeply in a way that isn’t possible in a city. It’s not humid, the mountain slope and trees supply a cooling breeze and shade and the bugs are minimal. I’ve found the place that feeds my soul. Again.

I do yoga in my quirky little gazebo. I sit for hours on a mat, thinking. Meditating. Writing.

It’s the senior citizen version of the teenage Michelle. Both of us are trying to figure things out. The younger Michelle, so idealistic, rebellious, passionate about so many things. I had so much to learn.

Now it’s time to sit quietly and think. To look at my life and experiences and take the time to learn and understand, instead of just doing, and reacting, scurrying from one point in life to the other.

I can walk out my door, put a bridle on Bali, and ride into the woods. I think I will be finding some areas to lay on my back and look at the sky. And think. And to be grateful for this gift of place and time.

Changing The Story

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear” is a quote I heard many times in my martial arts career.

Of course the truth of this statement goes far beyond how to kick and punch. Or do yoga poses. Or learn to ski.

A year ago was a dark time for me. The whys and wherefores don’t really matter, but I was not in a good place. I kept telling myself I was strong. That I could get out of the dark place if I tried harder. The thing is, the more I tried and failed the deeper I went.

Then someone told me about the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

The book was the teacher I needed. That book opened the door for more books, more teachers, more study.

I remember very distinctly my feelings as I started it. Within the first few minutes I realized that this was going to be an important book. I decided to read it slowly, to savor it, and give myself time to really process the words and thoughts.

I’ve probably gifted at least 20 copies of that book to friends and family that were struggling with life or relationships in the last year.

I could go on and on about what that book taught me. But today, as I continue to see Facebook notifications of the anniversary of my moms death, I want to talk about family.

One of the premises of the book is that we are born innocent and with a free and joyful spirit. As we are “domesticated” we are taught what is right and what is wrong. What to fear, what to hate. We are given rules and laws starting with our family, then school, church, the government, conventional wisdom, peer pressure and our partners in life. We are told what to think and what to feel. We are taught what is “ladylike”and what is “manly”. What our role in the relationship is. How we should parent.

Of course we need rules and laws to peacefully exist and keep order in the world. And I am certainly not saying children don’t need discipline. But the reality is that much of what we were taught and what we accept as truth is because it was passed down. It was tradition. The way it was always done. And sometimes that is just bullshit.

Racism and prejudice are alive and well in part because belief systems within families, churches and communities perpetuate it. All you have to do is spend a little time on social media and you will see the power of the group think domestication of our thoughts.

What does this have to do with family?

Today I read in The Art Of Living: Peace and Freedom Living in the Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hahn “ It is true that each of us is a continuation of our mother, we ARE our mother. So whenever we are angry at our mother or father we are angry at ourselves.”

I loved my mother. I miss her deeply. I take it as a huge compliment if I am told that I look or act like her, even and maybe especially the goofy and silly stuff. She was funny and wacky but incredibly smart. I get my love of reading, my writing and artistic talent from her. Also my insomnia unfortunately. I treasured my time with her because she had her first heart attack at age 52 when I was 20 years old. There were several more close calls in the more than thirty years that she was with us. But I will tell you that woman had a joy and appreciation for life that came from the realization that life is precious and could end in a heartbeat. She passed that on to me, it was part of my “domestication”.

I can’t remember ever being angry with her after I got out of the terrible teenage years and moved into adulthood.

My dad and I did not have a good relationship. He was quick to anger, quick to lash out. Irritable. Short tempered. Stubborn. We battled and fought, once almost coming to blows. After I moved out I put up with him but I kept my distance. And I did not want to be anything like him. Our relationship had a foundation of anger and resentment. Unfortunately I never changed.

They are both gone now.

After reading TheFour Agreements I was able to make peace with my dad. His father was infamous for having a bad temper. He beat my dad and uncles. He taught that to my dad. My dad was in the navy for 25 years, he learned a military culture. He treated me the way his father treated him. He didn’t know any better. His words and actions and thoughts were passed down through generations, forged by the culture and places he lived.

He was also generous and would help anyone in need. He loved with his whole heart and was loyal. As he got older he became sentimental and would cry when we gave him presents or cards. He changed. He mellowed. He became less of what he was, less hard and harsh. It took me years after he was gone to acknowledge the softening, it was easier for me to think of him as one dimensional and justify keeping my distance.

I thought of all of this yesterday when we were talking with some friends about athletic ability. Steve made the comment that I got my athleticism from my dad, not my mom. Dad was a great golfer, he was on the Navy Golf Team and almost went professional. He golfed regularly well into his 80’s. So yes, that is one way that I am like my dad.

He changed as he got older. I didn’t recognize it. It’s painful for me to realize that he reached out to me and I didn’t reciprocate on a deep and real level. I went through the motions, but deep inside I held back. I held on to that anger. And as I quote so often “anger burns the one who holds it close”. I don’t know if I wanted to justify the anger I had carried for so long, or if I was too caught up in my own life to care.

By making peace with my dad, I was able to find acceptance for the part of me that I frankly didn’t like. And only after accepting was I able to start to change. And only then was I able to really understand how deeply our domestication affects us and our relationships. It will always be a struggle.

We say Namaste in yoga. “The light in me recognizes the light in you”

That is easy to do, we are instinctively drawn to light and joy.

I had to dig deep to recognize the dark in my dad was also the dark in me.

Marriages, work culture, spiritual teachings, parental relationships ,friendships and so many other things contribute to our story of how our life was, and what it should be. I got caught up so many times in how things should be rather than what was. I know now that much of the deepest pain I suffered at the hands of others was really not about me. It was about their struggle with truth, with pain, with their domestication. Letting go lifted all of that hurt and anger and resentment. It gave me space for love, acceptance and understanding. Light.

My parents are in me. They are in the way I think and react, my talents and my faults. The way my body is built, the color of my skin and the way I age. My dad is close when I am pushing my body for perfection and when I decide nothing and no one is going to keep me from a goal. He fought in the war, if I am brave I got it from him. My mom is with me when I cry over the beauty of this world and feel something so deeply that I have to write. She taught me how to laugh until we cry.

Now I can focus on the gratitude of knowing the best of both of them is in me, and understanding they had their own struggles and victories. They did the best they could.

Now I can change the rest of story.

RIP Brandi

Brandi was a good girl.  She was a big, clumsy, happy, gentle soul.  And she was always a good girl.   All you needed to do to send her into leaps of joy was to tell her she was a good girl.

We put her to sleep on Saturday.   She was eight years old, getting up there for a giant breed like a Mastiff.  She had cancer.

Because of a bad spay, she leaked urine.   Twice a day we put a mixture of three hormone pills down her throat.  She sat.  We opened her mouth, put our hand down her throat.  Waited to make sure that she swallowed while we praised her.

 

She loved everybody and everything.   She loved the horses, and would bark and play with them.  Feeding the horses was one of her favorite activities.   If you didn’t know which way to go, she would help by putting your arm in her huge mouth and leading you.

She put up with puppies  and cats and pigs and kids crawling on top of her.

She and Keely grew up together.   I never heard her growl.  She had her nails done.  Bows in her hair.

 

Suffered through baths in the shower, sometimes with a lot of company.

386426_10200146911824038_1257881025_n

She was not brave in any way.  Steve would stand on the other side of the door and growl and bang on the door.   The other dogs would bark.   All you heard from Brandi was the sound of the dog door flap as she took off for the pasture.   We would joke that if anyone every broke in, the only chance of her hurting them would be if they were in the way of her running.

She would sit, lift a paw, and ask very politely for you to pet her.  Again and again.

293726_4880275013232_1117751001_n

I loved her so much.   Everyone did.  She loved Steve, and he loved her.   His big girl.  They would have a lot of talks.

She was just a big lovable dufus.   A true sweet gentle soul that we were blessed with for eight years.

Two weeks ago she wouldn’t come out of her house when I called her.    I opened the door for her, and she slowly came out.   She seemed reluctant.   She also had wet herself, which was not unusual.   So she walked a little stiff legged, again, not unusual.

But she wasn’t interested in her food.

A few days later Steve called me out.   She had come up the hill to be fed, but her hind legs weren’t working right.   She half wobbled and half crawled up the hill.  It was one of the most painful sights I’ve ever seen.  Steve had to drag/carry her back to her house.   It was the last time she was ever outside.  She quit eating and drinking.

We called the vet.  She thought it was cancer.  There was a heart murmer.  At eight, Brandi was old for a Mastiff.   We decided to try for a miracle and give her steroids for a few days.

The steroids brought back her appetite, she started eating turkey and meat if we fed her by hand.   She drank a little.

But she could only move her front legs.

So she laid in the doorway of her house while we hoped for a miracle that we really knew wouldn’t come.

On her last day I brought the other animals into the house.  Steve had started to make a trip to Durango, but was able to get in contact with the vet.   He said he would be there around 11:30.  Steve headed back.

I went to her house, opened the big door and put her head on my lap.   She was able to see the blue sky, the trees, the mountains.   I cried harder than I have cried in a very long time.

But for two hours Brandi got to eat peanut butter treats and turkey and cheese.   She heard me tell her over and over what a good girl she was and how much she was loved.

The vet was kind and gentle.   I held her while she went to sleep for the last time.   No more pain, no more confusion.

It is hard.  This doing the right thing for our pets.  It is a responsibility we take on, if we are going to be “their people”.   But I think, in a way, it makes the pain less for me.   To know that we could, with love, choose the way and time of her going.  I watched as she lay peacefully in my lap, hearing my voice, knowing love.   It was my last, and perhaps, best, gift I could give her.

I called her my whabada.  Because that was the noise her lips and ears would make as they flopped when she ran.

I think of her now, my sweet Brandi, whabada.  Running free.

23379837_10215452581456213_6194699710512521021_n