Monday, December 29, 2008

Wolfie

I was thinking the other day that my horse has come into my life for a reason. I don't know what the reason is, at least not yet, but I do believe that his presence here isn't random.

And then I thought, "Maybe I've come into his life for a reason, too. "

I suddenly realized that where I once saw Wolfie as the superior half of our partnership--the more perfect being who was here to help me--I now see, in a way that I had not understood until now, that I am also here to help him. Not just to feed him and make sure his stall is clean and he gets plenty of time outdoors. It goes so much deeper than that.

(People who don't believe that animals have souls couldn't be more mistaken.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fear

I realized today that fear is just worrying about something that hasn't happened yet--something that may never happen. 

The more you believe that something bad will happen ("I will slip and fall" "My horse will spook and I'll get hurt" "This will be too difficult and I will fail"), the more likely it is that that will indeed happen. You use up valuable energy by worrying about the thing that hasn't happened yet, instead of being in the moment and using that energy to support yourself as you negotiate the situation.

You can handle whatever comes. You may not handle it gracefully, nor perhaps as well as you might like, but you can walk across the ice without falling, and ride through whatever your horse may or may not do. 

You're just that good. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Timeliness

Is being on time a virtue? I'd like to think so, but I'm the only one I know who's always on time. I'm well-brought-up, and have always thought that it's somewhat disrespectful to be late. I plan ahead. I don't keep other people waiting. And I spend a lot of time waiting for other people to get wherever it is they have said they'll be at an appointed hour.

What makes everyone think it's alright to be 10 or 15 or 20 minutes late, everywhere they go?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Storm Warning

The first real snowstorm of the season is on its way, just in time to make that whole "White Christmas" thing a possibility this year. I'm feeling a tad bah-humbug these days, so the prospect of a good storm seems just the ticket.

The bah-humbug thing is not really holiday-related; I'm just tired of the status quo and haven't figured out yet what I need/want to do to change things up. Mostly I want to figure out how to get out of my own way, how to let go of what I no longer want or need to make room for what will come next. Something always comes along, eventually or abruptly--it might knock the door down and wreak havoc in my life or perhaps it will tiptoe in, take a seat, and wait until I notice that it has indeed arrived.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deep Background


Today I was looking at some old photos on Facebook, posted by a high school classmate of mine, Jeff Lusenhop. He got his high school graduation photos digitized and had posted a few.

Scarily bad 1971 clothes and hairstyles on people I haven't thought about for many years. I immediately recognized Sheri and Teri, the identical, incredibly nice, cheerleading twins, in matching white dresses, leggy and tanned as they always were (and shall be forever, in my memory).

Then suddenly, there's my dad, looking relaxed and happy, smiling and looking down at his camera as he walks through the crowd. An amazing coincidence--he's just background noise in Jeff's graduation photos, some stranger who wandered into their family's photo album.

It is lovely to see him; he was younger at that moment than I am now, in the middle of his life on a beautiful, celebratory summer day in downtown Dayton. I realize once again how much I miss him, and am once again grateful for how much of him lives on in me: my love of words, my work ethic, and, I confess, my penchant for a good argument.

(Thanks to Jeff Lusenhop for posting this photo.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

First Snow

I'm waiting for the first snow of the season--they've promised us at least a dusting in the next 24 hours. Got a last pre-snow ride in with Wolfie today as the sky turned that leaden, nearly colorless shade that signals snow on its way. 

Unlike many people around here, I like snow, gentle and magical or wild and dangerous. Nothing like a lazy afternoon with big snowflakes coming down, a fire in the grate, and a good book. And I love blizzards, with their impending-doom, natural-disaster edge--Laura Ingalls Wilder's family hunkering down on the Plains, their house half-buried in snow, a howling maelstrom just outside the door. 

* * *

I remember several years ago going to Gordon and JoeAnn's out on Eastern Point during a blizzard to watch a Patriots game. My car got stuck in the deep snowdrifts that had accumulated on the road to their house, so I wound up staying overnight. In the morning, we had breakfast in the kitchen of their old farmhouse before I set out alone, making my way home on borrowed skis.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shooting Stars

Late last night, as I returned home from an evening out, I glanced up at the sky hoping to see once again the rare alignment of Jupiter and Venus that has been visible for the past few evenings. Instead, I saw a shooting star, its long tail bright and clean against the darkness of the night sky.

I love seeing shooting stars; they're so random, and, in my life, so rare. It always feels like a gift, as if the universe is telling me, "Yes, we're here. Take heart; this is for you."

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Nice Girl from Ohio

When I was in high school, there was a joke about the difference between a nice girl and a good girl. A nice girl goes out on a date, comes home, and goes to bed. A good girl goes out on a date, goes to bed, and comes home. 

Turns out that I'm a nice girl from Ohio after all. I floss. I tell the truth. I don't litter. And I don't do the "friends with benefits" thing. 

Many people do; opportunities abound. Hey, why not? Just because there's no one on the scene whom I'm in love with, why not take friends up on their offers and interest? Time is passing, and I'm not getting any younger. 

But, it seems, I am getting smarter about myself--I'm the one who wakes up with me in the morning and faces myself in the bathroom mirror. And I don't like how it feels to be treated as a convenient option. I want the real thing: love, passion, trust, partnership, constancy, true intimacy. Anything less just highlights what sometimes appears to be the great distance from here to there.

Nothing less will do.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I am not a wuss.

Private guilt. Why the hell do we do it to ourselves? Feeling guilty about something that no one else notices or cares about, something that doesn't really matter, something that isn't even wrong. But the judges in our heads are fixated on it, and let us know, all day long.

Here's what I'm talking about:
When I don't take my horse out on a beautiful chilly day--partly because it's a bit chilly and partly because there's no one to ride with--I feel guilty.

It's not the cold that keeps me from riding, it's riding alone. My horse is very cautious when we're by ourselves; he's always surveying the area around us to be sure there are no predators lying in wait. Sometimes he shies at inanimate objects, sometimes he bolts a few steps when he thinks something is sneaking up behind us. Once in a while, he suddenly turns on the afterburners--and you wouldn't believe the thrust those rear engines have. Depending on where we are, it's either just annoying or downright dangerous, say, if we're on the sidewalk next to a busy road, on our way to the barn next door.

Even though I haven't fallen off (yet) and have ridden fairly well through everything he's done thus far, some days I just don't have the emotional fortitude to face it. So I find excuses to avoid riding. And then the judge in my head says, "You wuss. If you really knew how to ride, you'd just tough it out. Everyone knows you're a wuss. Wussy, wussy, wussy. "

Now here's the thing. No one cares whether I ride or not. Certainly Wolfie doesn't--he'd rather hang out in the paddock with his buddy than ride around in circles or go out on the trails. As for other riders, I'm sure the people I ride with wish I'd stop talking about this issue, but whether I ride or not is completely irrelevant to them. It just doesn't matter one way or the other.

But I care. I see it as some kind of foundational character weakness. Yet, if I look at the bigger picture, the fact that I ride at all is a pretty good testament to my courage. Horses are big and powerful. Their reactions to the unexpected can be extremely dangerous. People die riding horses. Think Christopher Reeve.

So, am I really a wuss? I suppose it depends on one's perspective. But I know I'm a fool if I listen to the voice in my head that says so. And I'd rather be a wuss than a fool.

Monday, November 17, 2008

For women only...

(Guys don't believe that women behave this way, but we all know the truth--they do, and it's getting worse and worse. I just can't stand it anymore. )

Ladies! Stop peeing all over toilet seats!

1. It's pointless--there are more germs/bacteria on the handle of the bathroom door and the stall than there are on the toilet seat. Your butt is one of the parts of your body least likely to be anywhere near your mouth, which is where the whole germ thing is really an issue. Keep the toilet seat dry, and remember to wash your hands.

2. It's not only inconsiderate, it's disrespectful--would you want your mom or your grandmother or your near-sighted best friend (or anyone) to sit in someone else's urine? No? Well then, CUT IT OUT. My 86-year-old mom can't balance herself 3 inches above the toilet seat so as to avoid sitting in that mess, and she can't see all that well. Think of her next time you pee all over the place. Someday that will be you--I guarantee it.

3. It's just plain gross--if you wouldn't pee all over the seat in your own bathroom, then don't pee all over the seat in the restrooms at movie theaters, restaurants, the DMV, the airport, or ANYWHERE ELSE.

4. It's skanky. Don't be skanky. Nobody likes a skank, especially an extremely entitled, selfish skank.

And if you should happen to find yourself in a bathroom stall where someone else has left the seat a mess, take a minute and clean it up, don't just pee on top of where the last idiot did. Pitch in, do the next woman who uses that toilet a break, and leave it cleaner than you found it. And then wash your hands with soap and hot water and give yourself a pat on the back. Good girl!

"Don't pee on the seat. Leave it dry and neat."

(BTW, I'm not the first person to blog about this--nor will I be the last, I fear. Tango Diva has written very articulately about this issue.)

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Last Lines

I love last lines. I've written a lot of poems that essentially were created just for a last line that came into my head. There's nothing like a line that provides both closure and open-endedness. 

Whenever Verlyn Klinkenborg writes an essay for the NY Times, I'm totally captivated. He's an amazing writer--the writer I wish I could be. His short pieces are structured to take the reader on a brief sojourn into whatever he's thinking about--life in the country, culture, politics--and the last line of every piece is a like a lid that fits perfectly on a hand-thrown pot. 



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election

It's election day, and it looks like my team will win. I am greatly relieved and also a bit concerned.

I remember when Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. I voted for him, with gusto, just as I had voted for McGovern in '72. Election night, Carter's victory was such a relief after Nixon and Ford! Ultimately, of course, it didn't turn out to be all that we had hoped for--between the economic woes and the Iran hostage situation, it was a hell of a time. Still, that moment in time when Carter was declared the victor felt damned good.

8 years ago, I was in California on business on election day. I went to bed thinking that Gore had probably won, and woke up to find that nothing about the election was clear. That lack of clarity went on for 3 weeks, with hanging chads and the ├╝ber-bitchy Florida Secretary of State, until the Supreme Court decided the whole election for us, and not, in my opinion, in our favor. The past 8 years have been an ongoing nightmare with Bush and Cheney: the amazingly appalling choices they made have done more damage than any of us could have imagined.

I don't envy Mr. Obama the many tasks that lie ahead. But I'm hopeful, which feels a bit strange after a very long period of hopelessness and haplessness. God bless us, everyone.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Great Football Names

In an earlier post, I listed some of my favorite baseball names. Last night, watching the Pats get beaten by the Colts, I started thinking about great football names. Here are a few:

Brett Favre (partially because no one who's not heard it can pronounce it properly the first time around, something that was noted in "Something About Mary")

Drew Bledsoe (the Nancy Kerrigan of quarterbacks, but still, it's a melodious football name)

Warren Moon

Kordell Stewart

Franco Harris

Tiki Barber

Lynn Swann

Jerry Rice

George Blanda

Some new additions, 11/24/08:

Ellis Hobbs

Ty Law

Lawyer Malloy

(I know, I know, too many current and former NE Patriots, but what can you do?)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Under the Weather

It's Monday morning, and although I'm supposed to be in Sebastopol, California, attending an important company meeting, I'm sitting here in my kitchen in West Gloucester, in my bathrobe.

I'm sick: I have had a bad cold for the past week. I spend my days coughing my lungs out about every 3 minutes or so and trying to outsmart a headache that advances and recedes, depending on the drugs I throw its way. I'm pretty sure that there's nothing a doctor could do for me--this is just one of those colds that hangs on until you stop doing all the things you normally do, and just rest.

Rest. Not a term I'm all that familiar with, certainly not something I'm particularly capable of. I never stop moving, never stop thinking, never stop running from this activity to that responsibility. Between work, maintaining a house and a yard, taking care of my animals, keeping in touch with family and friends, and making art, there's never a break. Mostly that's alright, except when I get sick and the only way back to health is to rest.

My former therapist once gave me an assignment: she told me that I had to do nothing for an entire day. No work, no grocery shopping, nothing but relaxing, breathing, looking out the window, maybe going for a walk. It was excruciating. Like a drunk with the DTs, I was twitching both mentally and physically. For me, sitting still just to sit still is nearly impossible: forget yoga (although I am guessing that yoga would help).

To rest when I have so much I want to do, have to do, is to destroy the village to save it. Not doing anything in order to get well so I'm still able to do everything.

I hate it. But I'll do it. What other choice do I have?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Duck Hunting Season

It's duck hunting season. I live in a house that overlooks a huge salt marsh that leads into the Annisquam River. Every year around this time, hunters make floating blinds out in the river and blast away at the ducks.

This morning I woke up to the sound of shotguns across the marsh. The sound always depresses me; I'll never understand how anyone can get any joy or satisfaction from blowing birds out of the sky or killing animals in the woods. Just because we can, should we? Especially in this day and age, when meat is so readily available, and relatively cheap.

I get the whole thing about the circle of life--I do. But I can't kill animals. Won't, in fact, not even the mice who live in my garden shed. And I do eat meat. Yes, that makes me some kind of hypocrite, but I just can't abide the suffering of any animal. Unlike us, they have no choice about what they do, and little choice about what we make them do. It is up to us to treat them well.

I can only hope that the hunters this season have either terrible aim, missing their prey completely, or else dead-on aim that makes the killing process as quick and painless as possible.

Sic transit gloria mundi, ducks.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time: what a concept. Wish I'd invented it.

Time is such an amazingly fluid thing.

For instance, how long, really, is an hour? When I'm at the dentist (as I was yesterday), an hour is A WHOLE FRIGGING HOUR. But when I'm focused on a knotty design problem, that same hour could be just an instant; I look up and it's been three hours or five or six since I last checked the time.

Where does that time go? If you don't pay attention to every moment, do you lose something valuable? Time zips by; time drags. Yet it's all divided into the same units of measure: each second lasts just as long as the next and the next and the one after that.

But it sure doesn't feel that way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It is what it is.

It's my new mantra. "It is what it is." Instead of fighting against some apparently immoveable obstacle or situation, accept it for what it is.

And then figure out what to do next.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's not about you.

I have observed that there is at least one thing that cats and horses have in common: they think it's about them, all the time.

When the doorbell rings, Roxy scoots down to the basement, to the darkest corner of a storage closet. If the doorbell even rings on TV, she's gone. When the ice maker in my freezer tosses another load of cubes into the bin, Roxy heads for the hills. If I am wrestling a garbage bag into the kitchen trash can, she's outtathere. She's absolutely convinced that something terrible is going to happen to her.

My horse, Wolfie, while somewhat less of a nervous Nellie, is also sure that he's a target. Horses are flight animals: they run away from predators. So, the log across the path that wasn't there yesterday, the fake brick wall in the arena that's in a new location, the leafy branch that fell next to the trail--all of these things give him pause. If the menace is behind him, he bolts a few steps. If it's next to him, he jumps sideways. If it's in front of him, he stops in his tracks, front legs splayed, head held either very high (if the apparent troll is a distance away) or very low (if it's right in front of him, on the ground). As he gets more confident, he's less and less nervous, but his response to any new situation is viewed through that filter.

. . .

There have been so many times when I've been fearful or angry or hurt because I interpreted whatever was going on around me as being about me. I spent what must have been a decade in therapy railing about work until one day I realized that the dysfunction had little to do with me. It was what it was, and I just happened to be there--participating and, no doubt, contributing to it--but it wasn't about me, really, at all. Once I realized that, I found that I was no longer so angry and defensive at work. It wasn't all about me = it wasn't all my fault.

. . .

Years ago, I owned a Thoroughbred horse named Danny. He was big, opinionated, and a little hot, but seemed unflappable, and I trusted him the way I had trusted my childhood horse, who always took care of me no matter what we came across. One day, for no apparent reason, Danny spooked and bolted in the outdoor arena, and I fell off.

It was illuminating: I felt betrayed, because I somehow believed that he had intentionally done it to me. Some weeks later, I consulted an animal communicator (yes, I know, I know), and asked her to tell him that he had scared me when he bolted, and that I didn't like it. When she asked him about the incident, he said that he'd seen something at the edge of the arena out of the corner of his eye and it spooked him.

And then he said, "You know, it's not always about you."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Birthday.

A friend once suggested that the best way to spend one's birthday is to have your version of an ideal day, doing whatever it is you really love to do, not necessarily what everyone thinks you ought to do on your birthday.

And that is what I did. It was a beautiful fall day spent picking apples, stacking firewood, wading at the beach, and cantering Wolfie across a still-green field near the barn.

(A side note: one of my favorite books is Birthday by Dorothea Tanner, the wife of Max Ernst. Highly recommended.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stacking Firewood

For the first time, this winter I am going to try to heat my house with wood. I have been stacking firewood--a lot of firewood--this fall. There's something about the process that feels elemental: just think how long human beings have been collecting, splitting, storing, and using firewood. The patient energy of trees is turned into heat and light at the darkest time of the year.

When I was a teenager, I used to help my dad split wood. I loved the sound of the sledgehammer hitting the iron wedge, the ever-so-satisfying crack of a log as it split in two, and then sitting before the fire on winter evenings, remembering the beautiful fall days we spent splitting and stacking the wood.

These days I only split a few logs by hand, just to get oversized pieces small enough to fit into my stove. But I still insist on stacking it all myself, even as my back objects. And this winter, what I will remember is how much joy I found, today, in this simple chore.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nuke-U-Lar

For God's sake, why can't politicians learn how to speak English?

In addition to the completely backwards and incorrect sentence construction she seems to favor, Sarah Palin sounds like she's channeling W. every time she mispronounces "nuclear." For someone who is supposed to be an expert on energy issues (expertise which I sincerely doubt has any relevance to those of us in the lower 48), it would seem that learning to pronounce that one word properly would be a snap.

Alas, that is not so for Ms. Palin. If, by some unfortunate series of events, this woman ever comes to be our president, we'll have to listen to that word being mispronounced--again--for years to come. God help us all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Too many cooks make bad soup.

Companies often try to create a culture of inclusion as they wrestle with various decisions. While I am a fan of getting input from people who have a stake in whatever is being decided, I am usually a bigger fan of just making the damned decision and getting on with it. Coming to complete agreement isn't always necessary, depending on the decision being made; in some cases, getting bogged down in process is worse than making a so-so decision and carrying it out well. Stuff gets done and the world doesn't come to an end. (Unless, of course, the issue is deregulation on Wall Street--we all know what happens then. But that may be because the wrong cooks were in the kitchen in the first place. Their cooks. Not ours.)


Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Insanity Quadrant

A friend of mine at Digital Equipment Corp. showed me this little diagram many years ago. It's handy little tool, especially at those times when you find yourself wondering what the hell you're doing and why.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Judge not, lest ye be judged...

It only took me fifty years to figure out that it was far better for me to be my most compassionate friend instead of my harshest judge. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

Great Baseball Names

For years, I have been collecting what I consider to be great baseball names. There's a certain rhythm to some, others are just plain classics, like Babe Ruth. Here are few of my favorites:

Davey Concepcion
Johnny Bench
Vida Blue
Thurman Munson
Vada Pinson
Rod Carew
Minnie Minoso
Carlton Fisk
Ferguson Jenkins
Butch Hobson
Dennis Eckersley
Clay Buchholz
Mariano Rivera

There are many others. There are different categories of names: the stolid, straightforward "Pete Rose;" the almost musical "Mariano Rivera;" the alliteritive "Minnie Minoso." There are some very old fashioned-sounding names, like "Carlton Fisk," "Catfish Hunter," and "Thurman Munson." And the poetic: "Vida Blue."

Now there is a crop of new players, with interesting and unusual names that I can't yet categorize, like Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. The sounds of their names are still new to my ear, and haven't settled in yet.





Sunday, September 21, 2008

Give yourself permission.

To learn. To think. To do nothing. To make things--and no, they don't have to be useful things. Make whatever you want. Do whatever you want. If you don't know what you want to do, just do something, anything, that isn't what you normally do. Not work. Not make-work. Not your laundry.

Learn how to play. Alone. With others. And stop worrying about outcomes. Just play, as often as you can.