Archive for January, 2008
I called in sick today. Okay, so I was sicker on Sunday, and on Monday I had an air deprived raspy voice, and yesterday maybe I was more grumpy than anything. Favorite coworkers highly encouraged me to call in sick. They felt I looked and sounded sick enough, and maybe they just plain didn’t want to see me around looking like a frustrated gloom cloud. So I did it. I was told to sit around in the bathtub reading all day, only moving to the couch to watch movies.
It is worth calling in sick to simply be free of the alarm, though I’ve made my alarm as gentle as it can possibly be with the CD of Dennis Kamakahi singing “Ahe Lau Makani” and “Sweet By and By” to me over the last five years. When he gets to “Kapela,” I know I’m on the last call, and leave Cholla to snuggle in the comforts of down as I stumble down the banister-less stairs to bright lights and a shower. I love to turn poor Dennis off on the weekends, and the mid week treat of waking to a blue sky instead of darkness gave me instant healing all to itself. With clear vision I made it to the shower and decisively went out to coffee with my newspaper and journal in tow. My coffee shop overnight has become famous. Everyone in town was there, and I exquisitely performed my coughing skills with all, complete with singing a broken version of “Las Mananitas” to someone who had a birthday. I said I was going to ride my bike, sweat out the illness, but when I went home, I instinctively pulled out my backpack, warmed up my pea soup on the stove, and headed out to Soberanes for a hike.
It’s a favorite hike, though I have to say it’s also a favorite hike for many. It’s not unusual to come across a friend as one might encounter someone at the market. The trail is steep, and beautiful, and goes through a change of several ecosystems all in one trail, and it always gives me great joy to come around a bend to hover over a span of ocean that is as close as I can get to hang gliding (no, I’ve never attempted that). I hike it a lot at night, too; I love the night shadows and moon beams. Today, no one was there. I hiked up and up, pausing to breathe in those massive views of greens, of blues, of clouds, of cool air, noting changes in colors with the rain we’ve had, and somehow, wanting to keep the views and the way I saw them; the severe giant land fingers reaching down, down, the hawks swirling, and opening my eyes as wide as I could to take it all in without paints, camera, or even a pen to write about it. Up at the top, I nestled into some rocks, happily stripped off my sweat soaked t-shirt for my fresh one, put on the red sweater my sister knit (and amazingly just handed to me as she didn’t like how it turned out. I love that sweater), and there looked out at “my hills” (I’m sure we all say that), hunkered in there with my pea soup, loving that I was looking at green and eating green at the same time. With my wet t-shirt on the rock, my soup and the coziness of the rock, I was getting the rejuvenation I needed. After the hike, I called out “thank you,” and blew kisses to the hills.
A sick day! What a great thing! I did also read, and knit, and then walked Cholla on the beach. Odd things were going on. About twenty people in something like “moonsuits,” as one person put it, were out in a pack collecting the blobs of black gooey stuff that the local authorities told us were perfectly safe. They had on head to toe protective gear, an odd juxtaposition to us folks with dogs and Frisbees. Another guy was up on the eroded part of the beach with his shovel. I knew what he was after, and went up to join him. He was scavenging for the old bottles and cool stuff that was junked on the dunes back when the local beaches were considered undesirable places to be, perfect for tossing garbage at the turn of the century. So we chatted along, finding old Listerine bottles, crocks, Chinese plates, cups. I never got this guy’s name, though we shared lots of local stories and mutual wisdoms. He said he comes a lot, and has collected baskets and baskets of bottles. As the sun set, I grabbed my little stash, my clothes covered in soot, and headed home.
Sick. It’s a good thing. Sick. I think it happens when all the subtle parts of our being try gently to remind us to take some time, turn off the cell phones, forget about the work, forget about the anythings that twirl around in our minds, and as we neglect to notice the quiet reminders, another force within our bodies says, “well, since you’re not listening, here goes…take that! So NOW will you take a break?” Then it’s no voice (shoot, so now I can’t talk at meetings?), Kleenex box in a constant embrace, (no one wants to stay with me for very long?), coughs (wow, those rooms can clear out fast), and there’s no choice: attend to the self. I’m kind of glad I waited until I was pretty much on the other side of sick to use this day, do those things that keep me in my happy balance. To be repeated again soon!
Peace is Courage
A couple of days ago I was behind a car with a blue bumper sticker that stated: Peace takes Courage. I knew that the words were really directed as a reflection about our war, but I decided to read it for exactly what it proclaimed, and how it applied to myself. My first thought was that peace generally isn’t difficult at all: Saturday morning, me with my latte, Cholla playing at my feet; that peaceful stuff comes mighty easy. Then I flashed on my recent panic during the holidays about driving over the Siskiyou Mountains in the snow. I stayed in a motel overnight, and practiced putting on chains over the trash can with visions of me spinning out over the mountain in the snow. I snuck Cholla into the motel room, fearful of her freezing solid in the car, and of anyone seeing me slipping her in. No peace there. The big events: Russ and his diagnosis of cancer, my heart beating wildly and shock climbing in enough to somehow force my brain into some semblance of management.
So peace. Visions of calm, of Mona Lisa sort of smiles, puppies rolling around on their backs, sunflowers turning lazily towards the beams of the sun, holding hands with a loved one, homemade bread coming out of the oven perfectly plump and rich with the smell of molasses. I think of evenings in Hawaii on the beach, poking slowly through the sand looking for the tiniest shells possible with the push of the wave surge exposing the best, and finding those shards of sunrise shells, orange and brilliant and beautiful.
I’m not going to look it up, but this is what I know about courage: it is doing whatever it is that we are scared of. I told my sister that I was courageous to drive over the pass in the snow because I was scared out of my mind to do so. For her, it’s no big deal. She learned to drive in the snow. She drives on black ice. Me, I hadn’t had snow fall on my head since I was 6. Most fear comes out of whatever it is we haven’t experienced, any unknown, and this could be little, in our small sheltered lives. I see it in kindergarteners each year on the first day of school. Big round quiet eyes, a mild look of panic, some children try to make a bolt for it to escape the thirteen year public school imprisonment, and wrap their tiny arms around the legs of a parent.
As a society, these are immense: fears about land, about skin color, religion, language, education, money, health care…and we hang on so tight, and we fight so hard to control and defend and we get so lost (over and over again through history) whomever is fighting doesn’t even really know who or what he is fighting for because in the trenches, it’s all about survival, not idealism; like the shock that helped me along through the illness and grief, when the battle or the storm or the illness is right in your face, you will survive. Throughout the hundreds of letters my father wrote during WW2, he didn’t especially write about the issues we discuss in our history classes today; I don’t think he even once mentioned the name of Hitler. He wrote about loving my mother, about tossing hand grenades around, about towns being obliterated, finding a coat from someone “who didn’t need it” to stay warm, about the friends he made, about whatever sort of details he could find, written in a way to amuse my mother. In one letter, he said he was so scared he wanted to crawl into his helmet, and even that was written without much intensity. Survival is immediacy; the names of peace and courage are irrelevant, and only arrive as labels far into the future when the heartbeat comes into a normal thump thump pattern and reflection begins to organize experiences.
Survival is just that. Survive. Ultimately, isn’t the intent that we all survive? We do survive, and wouldn’t the best choice be to survive as long as we can, as humbly, as peacefully, as possible?
I might have missed something somewhere, but from what I tell children and what I see is that we have this one round planet with land, with water, with whales and birds and clouds that rise and fall without knowledge of which is what country. One planet. The globe I have here on my desk is one my mom gave me. It’s very simplistic; each continent is a different color, and the ocean is all blue. The concept of a shared space couldn’t be clearer. I love simplicity. It is stunning to think we can divvy up the space, say everything belongs to each share holder, and that no one can come or go; well, but maybe we’ll let some people sort of sneak in to do menial labor, and then we’ll build really high fences to make it harder for them to go home to see their families, and then make remarks about them because we don’t want to hear their language, and tell them to go home but then we need these people here so badly because who will cut our lettuce, clean our houses, serve us our water at our meals? Go away, come back; we play the tender ecosystem and heart of heritage and people like the master of a marionette without looking into future.
I suspect we do all this because we are afraid. As a political culture, we don’t like to wait for change to happen; we don’t like creativity and boldness. We don’t like patience, we don’t like to solve the source of problems or take the courtesy of finding understanding. We don’t understand that health care, education, environmental care ultimately helps us all. We don’t like to upset our implied sense of immediate peace, of those lattes in the morning when people around the globe don’t have rice let alone a coffee made with the indulgence of milk steamed on an expensive machine with electricity. As individuals, perhaps we don’t know what to do. We know the 50’s and 60’s adage of “eat your peas because someone in Africa is starving” is ludicrous, but do we get it in our guts the vast differences there are between cultures, and how much some people truly need simply to survive, never mind the peace and courage?
Peace does take courage, and it takes courage like this: in the face of conflict, of bitterness, of shame, of fear, of pain, can we/I take our/my breath in to push into, through, that fear with peace? Peace is easy when there is peace. It’s easy to smile and dance in the sun. In war, in conflict, making peace doesn’t come naturally, and it’s not exactly Wonder Woman or Clark Kent slipping into a telephone booth to radically change a persona into a pumped up bigger than life being. Peace is the overall, steady, actual heartbeat of the earth. Peace is the undercurrent of it all: the air that moves about all our collective bodies, the water that laps onto all the continent’s shores; the understanding and acceptance that earthquakes do happen, disagreements happen, people get sick, we get together to help, and life goes on.
Peace during peacetime is easy. Then conflict: conflicts need courage in order to sustain peace, our desired gift of living.
I think I’ve entered into a phase of a shoe fetish, which within the stereotype of Woman in Her Forties would be normal. Someone once suggested that perhaps I really did have a lot of pairs of Keens. I naturally felt defensive, but maybe an alert of the quantity I owned became evident at the Big Sur Marathon whereby the Keen rep gave me a hat and a t-shirt for selling more shoes than he could just by me standing around saying how great they were. (Ooo, those rubber toes are great for all activities. You should see the roars of excitement from six year olds in the way I can kick those playground balls with those protected toes). I don’t really get rid of my shoes. Old shoes are always useful for something. I have stages of tennis shoes; the pairs for walking clean on the pavement, then as they get older, become the stages of beach shoes, and the last stage is I let them become prey to the crawdads and rock scrapes in the Arroyo Seco River.
Okay, you know me: so Shoes. I must delve into the deeper significances. They really were the last items for me to hang onto of Russ’. He had his favorite TopSider boat shoes, and like me, would have a quantity of them, awaiting the cycle. He would wear them until the sole literally dissolved, and then out would come the next grouping to march through the ranks of hierarchy of activity. There was a brand new pair awaiting him in a box, and I sold it at a garage sale last summer, determined not to be negotiated on the price in honor of Russ. His sister took home a worn pair, the toes ripped out, her holding them sweetly with her tears, feeling his warmth through the indentations of where his feet once filled the space. His brother took the cowboy boots from the 70’s, beautiful boots that he wore for those concerts they sang at in Colorado. How many items do we have that hold an impression of our existence? As children, we make handprints in plaster and proudly write our misspelled names, but those were not were not used. Shoes hold our weight, the connection between us and the soil, the place we came from and end up in. They hold us upright, they serve us function, looks, and sooo many books, plays, stories revolve around shoes. Think of Cinderella, the Red Shoe, Van Gogh’s boots, magic shoes (click those babies together by the heels and you are home). So it’s not just me: we all have a shoe fascination.
Ahh…back to my birthday. That’s when I indulged in buying the new blue frilly skirt, and when I walked down the street in Carmel, I somehow wandered into a shoe store, found a pair of very high natural leather shoes on sale. I was told they were made for me, so I believed the clerk and bought them, and when I wore them to work the next day, the secretary was in awe of them, instantly named the brand and declared that I made a smart investment. Investment? That was new to me. This was reaffirmed when I wore them in Monterey the following weekend, was followed by two young ladies who just had to tell me what beautiful shoes I was wearing. Wow. By virtue of my smart shopping, I was not only accepted, but held in deep respect by a culture group who previously would never have noticed me. Oh, for the record, those heels are Frye’s.
Over the holidays, my nephew declared that he wanted a pair of sandals. We were in San Clemente, so I suggested we stop off at the Rainbow Sandal Outlet. That was my source for shoes in the 70’s when I was a beach girl (my podiatrist told me years later that he could tell that my feet had a lifetime of “little shoe encumberment.” I thought I was wearing shoes). Oh, my gosh: memory lane. I was instantly attracted to the giant sized sandal in front of the shop, and I immediately spun into memories of me as a teenager, wobbling slowly on my skyscraper platform of brightly colored layers of foam. (Actually, that pair was not worn all that much for exactly the reason of putting myself into a physical disability. They eventually turned into garage sale material) Oh, the days of beach beauty. I couldn’t resist: Giant Sandal and layered platform went home with me, along with memories of slipping sandy feet into new Rainbows while sitting on the wooden bench at the outlet, looking for the pairs that at least matched, and breathing that smell of rubber being cut behind the benches.
And so it goes…I am now ready and willing to enjoy a new phase of shoe indulgences for all and any reasons. Yay. A shoe fetish. Why not?