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Entries in landscape (35)

Thursday
May292014

The Illusionist and the Thief

Nagging, anxious chatter in my head made it impossible to sit in the house over the holiday weekend. My team was at work, so I should be too. Deadlines. Notes. Doubts. Legos. Mama, will you play with me? Mama, will you play with me? Mama will you play with me? There's a friend in a hospital bed on the Front Range.

This is what shoes are for, so out I go and the air up there is like a Xanax. It unclenches you. For some reason my eyes and ears work better up there than they do in the city. Every bird in the valley sings in its own language, pay attention. It is a relief to do this, to notice what is here right now. Sprays of glacier lilies spring up in the marshy fields fed by the snow melt, a daytime constellation of yellow stars. In a grove of a zillion juvenile aspen trees I find an ant marching through a forest of tiny orange mushrooms on a downed log.

The mountains don't know it's the First Official Weekend of Summer. Here it is only now spring, and the valleys are the tenderest green. Later the sun will bake and harden all of this and the greens will deepen and the lilies will give way to heartier Indian paintbrush but now the colors are like an ache in me, because I know how short-lived this season is. Does the glacier lily think it will live forever?

The news came in fragments and Facebook posts. Hey man, you might want to Clorox down my edit bay. Doctor says I'm out for a few days. Pneumonia. Collapsed lung. Coma. Antibiotics. He'll wake up any time now, he's 43 and healthy, after all. And we are invincible.

Wake up.

Wake up.

(Insert snarky Facebook post here. He'll laugh when he wakes up.)

Wake up.

Back in the office us old-timers started to hug, worried. We grew up together, professionally. We are jarred and confused and scared for his family. And for ourselves.

I am a talented illusionist. I have a trick up my sleeve that involves creating a life that feels solid. Inevitable. Constant. I fall for it every time. We all do this, right? It's a sleight of mind that makes it possible to move through our days with a sense of meaning and purpose. We are durable and so we build things like friendships, families, television shows, careers, and homes.

Is this the delusion of the naive? I can't be the only one shocked when, as substantial as this life feels, it is revealed to be a tissue-thin veil disguising one real thing: we are fragile beings. We only get a short season.

Spoiler alert: He doesn't wake up.

Yesterday the news came. That's a wrap. And with that dark humor it's confirmed once again that he chose the right woman all those years ago. It's something he would have said.

This sensation of losing Mike is familiar. It is the feeling of standing on a high place, looking down. Your logical mind believes you're safe.  There is a solid bridge with hand rails, after all. But your stomach nervously knots up anyway, waiting for the unexpected lurch that throws you. This is why we need the veil, I guess. To settle the stomach. To make it possible to focus enough to use your eyes and ears and hands and build something.

Mike, I will remember you for the long, hard hours we put in together trying to build better stories.  I will remember your humor, your pride in your family and your big dreams. Your determination to take risks to grow stands in my mind as a pointed challenge. You were robbed, and so were we.

 May we all find peace.

Tuesday
Jan012013

New Year, New Superpower

I was a scrooge on 12-12-12.

That special day, that once in a lifetime, that creative convergence when it seemed like everyone I know had a project going, fell on a day when I was busy being ground into fine dust between the mortar and pestle of work deadlines. I was in a bad mood about not being able to participate in the project that much of my creative community had devoted themselves to that day. I felt sorry for myself, and I grumbled well, it's just numbers. It's not any day that's more special than any other day. I could just pick another day to document.

And I was right, I could.

This week I've been walking in the snow. Last winter we dutifully came to the mountains because we love it here, but it rarely snowed. This winter on December 9 the snow started to fall like it's supposed to and everything is blanketed in a beautiful downy white.  There are igloos to build, snowshoe trails to break, the lightest powder to ski through. The tracks of each day's adventures are covered by the time we emerge in the morning.  

I've also been making lists this week, scraps of reflection on what went right in 2012, what didn't go so well, and what I hope for 2013.  What will I accomplish?  How will I be better?  But in the midst of the lists I hear a small voice in my ear, telling me that this New Year's Day is just one day, and every day is a new day.  Every day brings with it the possibility of renewal.

So this I intend for myself, my superpower of 2013: to make it snow in my head at will. In the moments when I need a fresh start, to camouflage my tracks, to cover the blemishes in my path, may I find the peace within me to bring down a psychic snow that covers everything and gives me a chance to start again, anew, with the understanding that every day is a special day.  Every day is once in a lifetime and every day holds infinite possibilities for growth, love, and creation.

---

Happiest of New Years to all of you.  I hope 2013 allows each of you to tap into wells of strength and power within you that you didn't even know you possessed.

Monday
Feb202012

Crash

I got rear-ended on the way to pick Ezra up from school one afternoon last week. The other driver and I pulled into the nearest parking lot to inspect the damage. She didn't speak much English and my limited Spanish is rusty at best, and particularly useless under the circumstances.  I did understand, with complete clarity, what she was saying when she looked at me nervously and asked if I was going to call the police. The damage was minor and I had no desire to get the police involved so we agreed to let our insurance companies sort it out.

The accident happened near my house, a momentary collision of two worlds. We orbit the same neighborhood, but different universes. We are hermetically sealed inside our cars, our ethnicities, our classes, but a split second of dropped guard punctured the thin membrane that separates our experiences.

---

I received word last week that the daughter of a former colleague died. She was 23, grown into young adulthood in the years since I spent time with her. The speakers at her memorial told stories of her spunk, courage and independence in the face of Muscular Dystrophy. Speaker after speaker told stories of knowing her since early childhood, or of decades-long friendships with her parents.

The service was at turns somber, funny, and reverent, inspiring in many ways. I was most moved by the evidence of the strong and supportive community in attendance, the sort of web that is always there but becomes most visible in times of either crisis or celebration.  It struck me as tanglible proof of a life well-lived.

---

I spent the weekend in the mountains with the makings of my own web. Friends I've worked with for years. Friends Will went to undergrad with, through whom we met. Orbits that intersect, over and over, and loop back in on themselves as new people get introduced to the fold. Our children are now friends.

This was an annual celebration of community one of our own throws each winter.  Food, drink, snow, merriment, an overflowing house.  The gift of time to crash into each other all over again.

Perhaps it is not a web that connects us, so much as a vascular system.  Tiny capillaries that weave through the membranes between my inside and my outside, carrying in nutrients and oxygen.  Carrying out the waste that builds up when I spend too much time in my car, or in my head.  Bringing me, crashing, into the world.

Wednesday
Jan252012

What I Learned From Sitting Around

In December I was increasingly frantic and disconnected from any sense of well-being when a friend challenged me to meditate.  30 minutes for 30 days.  I was sort of desperate for any way to stem the feeling of walls closing in around me so I took her up on it.  I wrote here about the immediate experience I had of holding space for myself in a life that often feels like it's about doing my duty towards my child, my marriage, my family, and my job first. 

It's been about 45 days now and the strangling claustrophobia has largely lifted.  I'm not sure if this is due entirely to the practice of sitting in the mornings, but I think it's a positive element in a regime of self-care I'm trying to faithfully implement.  Some things I've noticed:

  • I'm not really good at meditation, at least what I imagine capital-M Meditation is like.  In a single sit I consider it a win if I have a couple of breaths where my mind is focused only on that moment.
  • My mind is like an unruly toddler, constantly flitting from one trivial thing to the next.  I don't tend to notice that in my daily life so much, since I'm constantly being bombarded by stimuli and expected to get things done.  But when I'm sitting silently in the dark, the speed with which my mind alights from one thing to the next is staggering.  I write whole blog posts in a single exhale.  And forget them on the inhale while I imagine something else.  It can be exhausting.  And sometimes, when I'm in the mood to judge myself, disheartening.
  • The Present must be just awful.  I mean I know with certainty, now that I've tried for a month-and-a-half to be in it, that it's not really awful.  But somehow my mind (all our minds, I think) does not want to be there.  Wants to avoid it like the plague.  I wonder what that's about.
  • Breathing is hard.  Maybe it's because I fell off the yoga-wagon shortly after Ezra was born, and so haven't had any kind of pranayama practice in three years, but damn if I can sustain any kind of deep, intentional breathing.  Even after 6 weeks.  
  • Thirty minutes is a long time.  Well, not really.  But it is when you need to do it - and your morning pages and your run - before your child wakes up.  I did 30 minutes every morning for the first 30 days, but in an effort to make the practice sustainable and in a belief that even a little bit of meditation is better than none, I've scaled it back to 15 minutes every morning.
  • Even if I'm doing it wrong, it's the right thing to do.  Mostly I just give myself permission to be a bad meditator.  Some mornings I beat myself up about it, and then I try to remind myself that it's okay if I'm not really in whatever peaceful state I imagine meditation is supposed to bring.  In a life chock full of somuchtodorightnowrightnowrightnownomakethatyesterday I am pretty sure there's medicine in forcing myself to sit alone and do nothing for a few minutes, while the sun comes up.
Tuesday
Jan032012

Weight Lifting

My job shut down for the week between Christmas and New Years and we had the unusual circumstance of no family around, so I had the gift of quiet space this holiday.  I had to acknowledge to myself during this time just how disconnected I've been from my camera lately.  I have felt and known this for some time, but it was really the first time I have allowed myself to say it out loud. 

My camera weighs five hundred pounds.

I can barely lift it.

This makes me feel panicky.

What happens if I don't shoot?  What if I can never pick it up again?  What if I forget how to shoot?  What if I forget how to see?

I considered committing myself to another 365 project just so I have to shoot, but then I thought of the long list of other photography-related projects I have half-conceived.  I realized that a 365, with its comfortable rhythms, might just be a distraction from pushing through the fear I have about starting some new and different things.

I went outside a lot.  I breathed in the cold air.  I stretched, warmed up my muscles and picked up the heavy camera, determined to make a few images.  I did some things I am comfortable doing, and I tried some things I have never done before. 

It is the new year, and I am a beginner again.