A Parliament of Owls

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This is a picture I took a few days ago of the wind chime in my window. There’s a reason I have it hanging up and that’s not because it’s a fantastic example of 1972 kitsch; even though it really is. It’s not because I remember it from childhood, or because I like owls, or I’m a fan of things that give voice to breezes, even though those are all truths. I have it there because of the symbolism; the coming together of a like group in community. Crows gather in murders, cats form clowders, trout come together in hovers; this is a parliament of owls.

I’m an ambivert myself, even if I lean toward introversion, and though I understand the pull of solo time? Most days I can’t deny the draw of community. Humans are at root social beasts. We want to belong and will go to great lengths to find or form family. I don’t just mean paired folks with offspring either. Like-minded people who share interests, common goals, work & play & celebrate & mourn & live & die together. I have to say that I recognize the pain that can come from the dysfunctional birth family or what comes when marginalized people don’t *fit in* with the town or neighborhood where they live. We’re denied the healthy connection. We all want to belong, somewhere.

There’s an exchange between two characters on the show Northern Exposure, in the Our Tribe episode where the NY doctor is invited to join the local tribe. It’s dated in the sense of there being seven billion people now but it goes like this:

JOEL: Ed, let me ask you something. What does belonging to your own tribe mean to you?

ED: Well, I was raised by the tribe, but since I didn’t have parents, I was passed around a lot. I never really thought about it. I mean, belonging to a tribe.

JOEL: I belong to the Jewish tribe, so to speak, but I’m also an American, you know? What does that mean? I mean, is there an American tribe? More like a zillion special interest groups. In my own case, I am a New Yorker. I am a Republican, a Knicks fan. Maybe we’ve outgrown tribes, you know? The global village thing. It’s telephones, faxes, CNN. I mean, basically, we all belong to the same tribe.

ED: That’s true. But you can’t hang out with five billion people.

That’s the drive I feel almost every day. The not always having to be alone, wanting to fit in somewhere, needing people to engage with, especially if it is with persons as weird as me. Constructed family will do and maybe it takes moving to a more likely place. Creating community where I can be myself in a group of others. Maybe it will happen. Probably not until I get myself much further west. But when I do have it; that group of people like Ed mentioned to Joel, my tribe if you will…I’ll have the little metal creatures to thank for keeping me hopeful along the way. Somewhere there is a parliament of owls for me. For you, too.

I hope you’ll remember to be good to yourself. Cheers.

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Rumours

8tracks

Every morning I try and take at least a few moments between being in the enclosed, human-built space where I sleep and the enclosed, human-built place where I work to touch base with nature. I know it’s *all* nature in the most broad sense of all of creation, even inside buildings, cars and the like. Also? You can’t escape seeing the handiwork and intentions of humans in a place that’s been shaped and changed by 200 plus years of farmers and developers the way you might in an old growth forest or at sea. Still…if you will, each morning, I take some time to stand in the yard & hang out with Gaia…in Nature. With Mother Earth.

There’s always something to notice when you’re a Noticer and you take the time to open up to your surroundings. Maybe it’s which birds are new to the neighborhood or which ones have gone missing. Did it frost? Which of the 3 roosters is winning the most obnoxious crowing competition? Have the colors popped in the woods yet? Perhaps the sunrise is further south along the horizon. Sometimes it is a sense of something deeper and more subtle. Like today.

If you ever had the pleasure of listening to the recording format known as 8-track either because you are old, an electronics nerd, or hang out in the right sort of hipster space you probably have experienced *double-tracking* or the bleed through of songs from one track when the heads are misaligned. (There’s not much worse than hearing the ghost sounds of Gold Dust Woman when You Make Loving Fun is playing. Trust me.) Today something similar happened. Underneath the undeniably Octoberish yet strangely still green autumn was a strong taste of spring.

I say taste but maybe it’s some 6th or 7th sense; just a rumour or feel, hints, reminders of another season bleeding through; like an 8-track. Seasons feel like separate things, either opposite each other or adjacent, and in a temperate zone latitude you get all four. But they’re not separate…they’re tied together in one twisting, spiraling loop. Spring is autumn in the hemisphere on the other side of the equator. Everything is interconnected. So reminders of that fact are precious things. Everything. Is. Interconnected. Even humans.

Makes you wonder how we get so caught up fighting over which religion, political party, color, gender, or any of that shit should come out on top instead of working with each other and being kind and caring for our fellow earthlings. Kind too & caring for our earth space as well. One planet to live on and we trash it like someone else will clean it up and…anyway. SIGH. We are all in this together people. Well. It’s funny what taking a few minutes hanging out with Mother Earth can spark in your head. Like She is trying to tell me something important without speaking. Oh! One last pro tip for any hipsters reading: If you get a player with the little thumb-wheel knob you can adjust the tracking and exorcise the ghost song. You’re welcome.

Be good to yourself.

Saturday Story

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This morning is misty again, & quietish. I’m moving bleary eyed with a cup of German roast coffee & reading about Steinahlíðar farm before the tragedy strikes. Farmers Market is hours away; not until 10! So time to tend to the introvert side of my ambivertness. Once again I go outside and it is not a Lopez Island farm…there is no boat waiting along the shore, no seabirds, just Ohio. Each time I step out there’s always the hope that the Mandela Effect will kick in and make that happen, the San Juan thing. Looks like it’ll have to be the hard way & that’s OK. The journey is the important part.

The desire for a little alone time? No two-legged folk. Brilliant! But…one neighborhood chicken flock is facing down a gang of another farm’s guinea fowls, acting all Montague vs Capulet in their own little Verona. This farm’s 148 cats are all on my tiny porch, along with Karma (keeps coming around) who is a feline from the neighbor to the west & Tom Thumb from the east, the orange fur golden eyed polydactyl who looks like the result of a Hemingway cat getting down with a Maine Coon at a nip fueled cat party.

Also the songbirds are warming up, a hawk is screaming in frustration of drizzlefog flight delay from a perch in the pin-oak, and two woodpeckers are drumming at the trunk of a dead tree as well. No hope for alone time except to step back inside, get more coffee, & write down the day so far. Somewhere there are pencils to be found, to sketch a little of today, just as these words draw a little picture of a tiny part of a world spinning along through space at breakneck speed but feeling still; clock tick, refrigerator hum, breeze through the screen, kind of still…just for a moment. There. There’s a wee word drawing of an August Saturday. Time to get ready to face humans…

Be good to yourself.

Passions

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The daughter and I are lounging after dinner under a patio umbrella and watching swallows perform a sky ballet as they hoover up bugs out over the field. It’s hot, dreadfully hot, like Out of Africa even and we sit apart but together in the quiet comfort of like minds and personalities, alternating companionable silence with bouts of conversation. One of those wordy parts went like this…

“Dad? What if I can’t make a living from my passion? I’ve wanted to sing since I could walk, practically. But what if I fail?” I paraphrase a quote I read recently, about how you should never trust someone who doesn’t have a passion for something, no matter how unreasonable. Then we talk about voice lessons, singing every chance you can other than church choirs (anathema to us both; I’ve done it and churches make her uncomfortable as a cricket on a hot griddle) and how we go talk to her choir director and see what advice he has to offer, and give it the very best shot she can.

“If it doesn’t ever pan out as a way to make a full living,” I tell her, “you find every way you can to feed it anyway. Local theater. Karaoke even. Start a band. Just do it. Meanwhile you find a plan B, C, or 14 as a way to earn your bread. Something that’s not mindless, still has purpose, and that you can do well. But mostly you give that passion fuel to burn. I’m always behind you no matter where I am. You know the saying…”

“Whole-ass one thing!” she replies. “What about you? I don’t think the rest of the family has it. But we do. Is brewing, baking, boats or writing most important? You’re good with telling stories. You’re good at bread. Which is the passion?” I tell her bread and maybe someday brewing are ways to feed myself. Boats are a joy that I don’t get to indulge enough. “So, it’s words, then.” We sit, quiet for a few minutes, cats languorously and inelegantly stretched out, flopped at our feet. “Dad?” she says. “Write a damn book.”

Thank you for reading and be good to yourself. A more substantive post will go up Wednesday. Cheers!

Non Sequitur? Not!

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Since we’re still blogging on Vermont, did you know Heimir Hallgrímsson has led Iceland’s national soccer team to its first-ever World Cup this year? It’s true. Back in October FIFA tweeted Congratulations Iceland! The smallest nation ever to reach a World Cup! I know what you’re thinking. Why is he writing about sports? (It’s relevant to VT. I promise.) NPR dragged me in with a segment by some Brit where he talked about the World Cup and especially Iceland’s team. Their coach still works as a dentist part time and until a few years ago was running youth teams. I don’t know if it was the guy’s accent or the story of the Viking spirit or that soccer, not being one of the four popular sports that weight most heavily in the US, gets a pass in my book. Iceland (the team) are subtly badass, punch above their weight in awesomeness, and easy to love. Iceland (the country) is so damn fine it is always running on one of the tracks of thought in my mind.

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Like Vermont. Yes, Vermont (49th state in population) is mostly known for autumn leaves, skiing, maple syrup, cheese, and Democratic Socialists. Spend some time walking the streets along Lake Champlain in Burlington though, or scoot over to Montpelier or up to Glover. Slip out onto a lake that remembers when it was a finger of the sea that dipped south in between ancient mountains once covered by two miles of ice. Hike the Long Trail. Weave around the tourists in a Farmers’ Market and talk with the people who grow, raise, and bake your food. Breathe in the Green. If it doesn’t speak to your soul then there may be something wrong with you and you have my sympathy. But I get it. The state is easy to overlook because it’s small, tucked out of the way and oh yes, it was an actual country from 1777 to 1791. Take that, Texas. How is that for badass?

vtpnwI’m going to admit it. I love the Columbia Gorge more for some things, especially when I can see two stratovolcanoes sitting all impossible looking at each other across the river and feel the magic in the air in the morning when the sunlight shoots down from the east and just pets your heart like a kitten until it purrs. Astoria is wicked as Hell and in reach of some of the most wildly beautiful coastline I can imagine. I’d kick box with a six foot tall surly badger to be able to walk down to the ferry dock on one of the San Juans with my morning coffee on the regular. There is a list and I know I will fall for other places as I meet them on my travels. But Vermont, like Iceland, is a definite contender. I could give it a few years of my time.  You might consider giving it a visit. I think you’re in for a surprise.

Be good to yourself. Don’t count out the underdogs. Thank you for reading.

Shicksal and Serendpity Strike Again

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“Odd coincidences continue to occur…” reads the horoscope today. Sister, that’s been the whole weekend. Last week was like that too. You know how they say the universe, how life, isn’t fair and that the world is uncaring and indifferent at best? Well…I am here to tell you that sometimes Shicksal (fate) smiles and Serendipity (happy accident) is your friend at the very least and perhaps they are even watching out for you after all.

That feeling of being looked after is not unexpected in Vermont. This trip a week ago it was most evident while scampering along the Long Trail from the south onto Mount Mansfield. There was a moment after I left my hiking partner behind to rest when I scrambled up a spine of rock and could see New Hampshire one way and New York the other. No people near, 46° in the sunshine, some of the oldest, wisest mountains around for company, and no sound except the scrub trees teasing a soughing voice from the west wind. Just…perfect. For a long moment I felt absolute peace, the restoreth the soul sort.

The truly odd coincidences were this past weekend being told out of nowhere by people that I encountered, again and again; you are loved, you are valued, and you are wanted. Friends, the kids, a few almost strangers…even my ex-law nieces passed along a message. It was as if they knew, or the universe did, that I was feeling very much not any of that; wanted, loved, worthy…and even though I did not express my feelings all conspired to make sure to let me know how mistaken I was. It was surreal and beyond coincidence. Not an uncaring universe at all. Though I have a feeling maybe it was getting me ready for some hard lessons to come.

I am coming to accept that may be one of the reasons I am still around. I’m to encourage, reassure, and be a catalyst to action. To help other people out by listening to them; not just getting ready to reply, but letting them express their troubles and dreams, and then being a mirror. How many times have I heard a variant of “That’s exactly what I needed to hear! I was thinking it but it helps to have it come from somewhere else.” Many times, “Yes, move. Yes, apply to that program!” etc. I feel like the hot breath that causes the lemon juice to reveal the secret message on the back of the Declaration of Independence. (That’s a National Treasure reference. I couldn’t help myself.)

Thing is I can do that encouraging and all from a place not Ohio. So I will. Hopefully I can make that be very soon. I know this was all sort of strange but so is most of this long meandering journey. I hope you liked the picture at least. If you set your GPS to 44.5437° N, 72.8143° W you can see that view for yourself. Be good to yourself and thank you for reading.

Sunlit Nights

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I wasn’t sure how Vermont was going to affect me this trip. It had been a minute since I was last there and that was taking the two youngest so they could experience it for the first time. That whole trip was mostly watching them take in someplace that was not Chagrin Falls, not Florida. When I came around that last corner on the freeway in the Adirondacks and caught my first view of Camels Hump though, the yes feeling came over me, like straight from Olympus sunbeams, shooting down through the tattered remnants of charcoal grey thunderclouds after a rain. It felt mythic. It was “Homeric!” in the words of Michaleen Flynn in The Quiet Man.

It was damn good but it was different too. Now that I have flown along the Columbia and thrilled at seeing Mt Hood out the window and the string of other stratovolcanoes looming, unpossibly thrusting skyward and I’ve taken the grownup ferry between islands that have already tattooed their names on my heart somehow Vermont felt like it had become not *the* home place but *a* home place. There is a buttload (Butt: two hogsheads or 126 gallons. It’s a thing.) of promise and possibility for creating a present that can turn into a past worth having in the accepting that last bit. More than one place can feel like home. So noted. Yes.

At the point I saw the mountain I still wasn’t sure I could make the last ferry. An hour before that traffic had been moving at 15 mph past two accidents, while the Mandarin voice of my GPS said nothing and the ETA display added minutes. Old me would have become anxious and worried but now me (who is doing his damn best to learn new tricks at living life) thought of Plan B and C, considered that at the worst I would find the ferry full or gone and I could then drive 30 minutes south. I pushed on. Off the freeway, past the houses that finally felt Vermonty and cows contentedly grazing, down the winding roads, into Essex, up to the ferry landing where there was one car waiting, arriving 45 minutes before the boat was scheduled to leave. I took a breath, let out the tension from the trip to that point to flow across the parking lot into the cold waters of the lake.

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I got on, made my ride across the lake just the way I had intended and hoped. With a little grace, luck, and determination I had made it happen. Of course I took pictures, and I looked at my Insta feed considering which to post and noticed Rebecca Dinerstein was in Norway filming her book The Sunlit Night. (This is relevant. Trust me.) She had a dream for a story. Spent beau-coup time in Scandinavia researching it, writing, getting it published, and now is turning it into a movie. I own a copy and I keep borrowing one on rotation on the Kindle. I am not only a fan but she is one of my inspirations for taking a dream, planning it out, and making it happen. Dream, scheme, do it. Yes, again.

What I am learning to do, and you can learn to do better with your life, is to take the start I’ve made in changing how I live…all the lessons from the past six years, six months, six days; the stuff that got me to the point of being able to zen ride to the Essex ferry landing mostly stress free, and take that to The Sunlit Night levels. I think it will make me better at living true to myself, and that self will be better for me, my loved ones, and the world. Dream big, scheme well, do. Mostly, DO. Get shit done. Dinerstein it.

More on the trip and lessons learned next Friday. Here’s a sunset that is almost a sunlit night. Be good and thanks for reading.

c

What’s Your Road, Man?

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“What’s your road, man? — holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.” -Jack Kerouac

The whole point of this blog (if there is one other than a bit of internet space where I can put words together) is writing about the road. My road, your road, every (wo)man’s road. Life itself. I’ve called it a long dance but it’s also a saunter (I like the suggestion that saunter comes from French sauntrer (mid-14c.) from French s’aventurer,”to take risks”) in the Thoreauvian sense of not being so much a trip with a final destination as a journey for the journey’s sake. Life is about the living of it and about the experiences you have, the people with whom you connect, and the places you find yourself along the way. It is you engaging with the world, taking chances, paying attention to things along the way…and that to which you attend weaves into your story.

I’ve noticed something the past few weeks. I have found myself focusing on things that I like in what I read and watch. Like they way the inner monologue that Lucy Ives wrote for her character Stella in her book Impossible Views of the World touched and connected with the way my own mind thinks down multiple tracks at once in a mad rush of non sequiturs that somehow come together to make sense more often than not. Then Heidi Thomas and Vanessa Caswill put together their BBC adaptation of Little Women that pulled me in so readily much I forgot I was streaming PBS and not part of the March family or  at least a neighbor. There are more examples. I’ve been drawn in to find what is good, first, not what is wrong. It’s like discovering your inner critic’s heart grew three sizes overnight or something. Or it’s Scrooge on Christmas morning all of a sudden. I like it.

How is this relevant to life and the road? It’s about how you choose paths. Think about a garden and one of the problems that come up (literally) while growing vegetables; namely, weeds. You can go about tackling the pesky vegetation a couple of ways. One is to attend to the plants you value and focus on caring for them. An organic approach takes time spent on your knees, hands in the dirt, teasing up the weeds you do not want, making space for and caring for the things you do. You’re looking toward fostering the *good*stuff, making sure it thrives. The other choice is to put your main attention to the weeds. You apply weed killer liberally and select seeds that grow along with *it* to plant. Then you end up with excess glyphosate in your body but damn is your garden plot weed free with little effort.

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Both ways work and both may help you realize your goal of a weed free garden but consider the costs and benefits. Now apply it to your life. Do you work toward the good stuff, keeping your attention on what feeds your soul? Or are you always noticing what’s wrong first? I know in a world that floods us with stories of outrage and hurt and things we need to change, avoid, fix, &c the tendency is looking first at the bad shit. There are harms that need to be addressed, great wrongs and injustices, evils wrought upon society and nature, and we do need to do something about them. There’s so much good stuff too though. We run the risk of weaving mostly what’s wrong with life into the majority of our story and leaving out the joys if we don’t set our focus on caring for the people, places, and things that we love, first.

I know, YMMV. I’m not preaching one way over the other. But let me tell you how I know that the change in me is deep and real. A friend posted pictures of a bunch of people watching Manhattanhenge (this year May 30) when the full sun lines up with the streets as it sets between the buildings. My first, second, and third thoughts were I want to see that someday. Manhattan. If you know me well that speaks volumes. No NYC anxiety. Just, YES DO THIS. Finding the good stuff first and working from there to weave a good story from the road taken. No fear. It feels good, I want to get on the road and see everything.

Speaking of the road I will be writing from Vermont next week and about Vermont, the PNW, and things along the way for a few weeks, and not so much introspection. You’re welcome. Be good to yourself and thank you for reading.

vtpnw

Weaving a Life

spiderLast night I watched a spider working on its web. It would drop suspended by the silk coming out its butt, swing, attach, climb back up, again, again. Easy falls, smooth steady ascents, all like there was a plan, a blueprint, but there was not. Still, it kept on. It’s at it again this morning, no real symmetry to the structure but a beauty nonetheless. From itself, in the most true, visceral way the spider made art as part of its life. I think of one god form to whom the spider is sacred and raise my cup of hella good German roast coffee in salute and thanks for the reminder. Cheers, Athena.

This morning the leaf shadows shimmy their dappled dance in the summery breeze. Clouds drift in misty fleets in the brilliant cerulean sky-sea. Sunlight beams all the potential and promise of another day, reflected a thousand million times in grass tip dewdrops. There is no room in that sort of morning for anything but gratitude even though the world of man be fraught with woe and distress. It is a call to live the best you can. I am resolved in the spirit of the gift of a fresh dawn wrapped blank slate to emulate the spider and craft my own life; with no blueprint, but with intent, a direction, determination, and furious purpose, into something beautiful, even though I pull it out of my ass as I go. It will be art.sky

Piece by Piece

I spent some time thinking the other day about life. Well, our lives, as humans…how others see us, and how we see ourselves, and looking for a metaphor to better understand how to go approach consciously making *major* changes in my own. In more than one way we’re each an amalgam. Best recent estimate I found of microbe to *you* in the average person is the 1.3:1 ratio – 39 trillion microbial cells to 30 trillion human cells. Each of us is a mix of genetic factors, social interactions, and all of our environments; both large and small scale human and the nature of the places in which we live. We are memories and learned things, experiences had and dreams unrealized. We are a mix, a process and a mess. So I thought of a life as less science than as art.

Life is a jigsaw puzzle. That’s pure predestination. You have pieces that you are given that only fit a certain way and if you don’t find all of them the picture; who you are, can never be complete. The image that you create as you assemble your life is whatever is printed on the cardboard and whether you like it or not the only choice you get is whether you look for the pieces that fell off the table and finish or leave the gap. You are more crafts-person than artist. Gods help you if something chews those pieces up.

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Life is a collage. It is absolute free will. We have magazines from which to choose whatever pictures we want and can combine them in a way that appeals to our sense of expression. Or maybe it is a stack of found objects from which to make some pleasing arrangement. Though some people get pictures from Vogue and some Popular Mechanics or some objects from high end store shelves and others thrift shop bins the free will to make of them all we want life to be is ours. The finished product is up to our imagination, not predetermined.

Life is a mosaic. We get pieces because of the circumstances of our birth, childhood, relationships. We find pieces by chance as we live out days. We go out looking for things to complete whatever picture we want to make, and then figure what, or remember who we wanted to be. Then we jumble the whole mess up and start over if need be. Sometimes pieces get broken or we break them on purpose and still use them; the memories, experiences, relationships, in a different way. Life is a mess of a mix, of lessons and choices, but we are still the artists and can create and recreate ourselves as we go along. The end result is not set and we can tweak it as we grow.

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That last one is the one that speaks most to me. YMMV. Remember, broken bits, though the circumstances of the breaking may hurt, are sometimes are exactly what we need to make things right. Life lessons I think is what you call them. They fill gaps in just the right way though we don’t think so as we are learning. Step back and look at it all if you feel lost. Then arrange things as you like! YOU are the artist here. Good luck!

OK I am two weeks out of having some more road trip experiences to write about and am going back east for the first time in a long minute. I am interested to see how it feels after all this time. If there is something worth sharing, and there will be, it’s going up here. Thanks for stopping by. Be good to yourself.