Thursday, December 30, 2010

It has been another good day here in Blacksburg. The snow is still on the ground, but apparently rain may wash it away tomorrow or the next day. Today Bob's mom and mary Lee took Bob and me to a civil rights site right here in Blacksburg, a small museum in the Oddfellow's Hall, the fraternal lodge of the historic black community in Blacksburg. Most of the afternoon and evening I've been working on writing up the pictures Bob has taken along our Civil Right's pilgrimage route. We have arranged them in a separate blog, and would love you to visit if you are interested. The link is

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I am sitting in Bob's parents warm, decorated, well stocked house, feeling so loved, loving connected and thoroughly enjoying the fact that out the window the ground is still blanketed in sparkly white snow, which just began to melt today. Being with Bob's parents makes me want to take better care of myself physically (though people can take great care of themselves and get sick and die or lose function anyway). These two people though, are such a blessing to all their family, all the generations as they continue in their eighties. I'm beginning to want that for myself, both the joy of seeing the generations develop and the possibility of continuing to provide stories, wisdom, support, and mostly LOVE.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How do I start blogging regularly again? I guess I just start blogging regularly again. Trying to catch up or explain even to myself, how or why I lapsed just gets confusing. So here I sit in a beautiful hotel room in downtown Atlanta, excited to go see the whale sharks (the largest fish in the world and hard to keep in aquariums) at the Atlanta Aquarium in the morning, and beluga whales too. Those white whales have a soft spot in my heart. Back maybe thirty years ago Sea World in San Diego had a beluga whale which absolutely caught my imagination but didn't live long.Belugas are especially prone to infection in captivity. I hope they do better in the Atlanta Aquarium. Tomorrow night Bob and I will begin a visit with his family in Blacksburg Virginia where an abundance of snow and an abundance of love await us. I'm looking forward to both. Bob and I have been on the road since Christmas morning, and it's been great. We had a sweet Christmas with Joanna and her crew - presents, muffins, board games on the floor beside the tree, Andrea climbing up and down off Bob's lap, grinning, giggling, making a game of it. Once we left San Antonio we started on a Civil Rights Era pilgrimage which we've been researching and preparing for for weeks now. Spiritually and emotionally this trip is just what I've needed to recharge after a challenging year. Bob has been taking pictures along our way, and I'm writing about the movement sites and their effect on me. Maybe Bob will write some too. We'll see. Stay tuned for a link to our special, as yet non existent, blog about our pilgrimage.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I love my husband. He is magic in ways that I am not. Last night I wanted to see the full lunar eclipse, on winter solstice, the day before my sixtieth birthday with all my heart and soul. We napped in the afternoon so we would not be exhausted by staying up for the eclipse. I went out and walked the dogs at moonrise and admired the golden moon in the clear sky, so excited I would see it disappear and return later. Then the clouds gathered and it became clear it wasn't going to be clear enough to see the eclipse. I felt sad, but weather is weather, and I prepared for bed. Not Bob. He found a live cam of the eclipse on line and we lay in each others' arms and watched the moon begin to disappear, if on the computer screen. Then Bob jumped up and pulled me outside with him, found a break in the clouds and suddenly, just for a second, we saw the bare crescent of the eclipsing moon. I love my husband.
I wrote all the deep philosophical stuff about turning sixty already. I just want to report here that Bob gave me a beautiful birthday - all focus on me. I worked a few hours in the morning and after that he just offered me everything I wanted all day long - trips to odd second hand stores I've been curious about and haven't made time to visit, dinner on the heated porch over the lake at Hula Hut where I gorged on chicken Pipeline enchiladas, a walk around our most romantic loop down at Town Lake (I know it's officially Lady Bird Lake now and the woman deserves a lake named after her, but in memory, it is still Town Lake where Bob and I walked and kissed on one of our first dates and where my children and grandchildren alike have fed ducks and swans.) The sun set. The moon rose. The light is ever so slowly coming back as we move two days past shortest day. The dance of life continues.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sixty. I turned sixty today. Its odd because I remember when sixty seemed old and it sure doesn't feel old when it is my own age. There are a few tell tale signs. It still surprises me when someone pulls out a cell phone in public and starts talking away. Texting is a mystery. Many events, like the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., are memories to me, not history. I notice when I put my name and birth date in the registration book at the gym at least 85% of the people who sign in are significantly younger than I am, many even younger than my daughters. I have a teen aged grand daughter.

So yes, six decades have passed since my birth and they've been full ones. I've learned, lost, loved so much. Twice married, once widowed I've eulogized one husband, both parents, aunt and uncle. I know the stories, often going back two generations, of most of the objects in my home. I live in a home in which my daughter put a space heater in her son's bedroom because she remembers how cold that room was nights when she slept there as a child. I can't remember how many color schemes we've had in the hall bath since we bought the house thirty three years ago. I remember as if it were yesterday how proud, happy, and disoriented I felt the first night I tried to sleep in the house when it was new.

At sixty, my past is longer than my future and that doesn't scare me. I don't know how long I have or how much of what I do have will be good time, productive time, but then I never really knew that. I don't feel like winding up my life, settling down, slowing down. I am still up for adventures, hard work, creating new stories, making a difference. I look back on accomplishments and mistakes and want to use all I have learned to create more of the former and fewer of the latter. I am still learning, and I also want to teach, to pass the torch, to inspire.

So what do I want to share tonight. It's simple. I am not in charge of what happens to me, for better or for worse, but I am in charge of taking the feelings that result from whatever happens and transforming their energy into work, art, or service. I am not entitled to spin my wheels, nurse my wounds, sit on my gifts. Transformation is my responsibility, whatever happens. Love, not ego.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Hope

Shorter days follow
longer nights. Darkness
chills every hollow.
Still hope whispers
there is light enough.

Victoria Hendricks

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Last darkness this Hanukkah is hopelessness, despair. The miracle of the Festival of Light is that light is sufficient, no matter how short the day, how dark the night, how frightening the diagnosis, how fierce the enemy, how complicated the problem. I will hurt again and stumble, lose loves, fail at ventures. I work to remember that the energy of pain can be turned, transformed into work, service, art, and those are the candles in my personal year round menorah which I need in order to keep my feet in moments of darkness.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Today's darkness is hurry. It wears me out, takes me out of the moment, saps my spontanaety, cripples my abilitly to be present with others. I will continue to work effectivley and steadily, but I will stay in the moment, foot in front of foot - one foot-two foot, one foot-two foot - and trust that this kind of steady, mindful effort is enough. I cannot fly. I have to walk, and I only have two feet. I will drop any candle I carry if I hurry and trip over them!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sixth darkness is entitlement - a deep darkness. I don't want to use the word "deserve" anymore. It is so easy to think I deserve a certain kind of treatment because I'm excellent at something, special, or because I have suffered or am suffering. The sword of entitlement cuts both ways, and whether it points out gifts or neediness, it separates me from the rest of human kind, makes my somehow more important. I don't believe everyone has the same needs at every moment and I do believe individual treatment of individuals makes sense. I need someone to read me small print because I simply can't read it, not because I "deserve" that level of help. I appreciate that help and other help greatly, as I appreciate it when someone allows me to take a leadership role in an area in which I am strong. I believe in terms of "deserving" humane, even generous, treatment, all humans are equal and when we fall into entitlement we negate that equality and dishonor others and ourselves.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The darkness I choose to illuminate today is fear. It is so easy to let fear block actions of generosity or creativity, to let it keep me from asking a question or approaching someone in difficulty. It can keep me from apologizing and making amends,from offering help, from asking for help. I don't expect to eliminate fear, but to take it as a background presence that doesn't control my choices and actions - to be more conscious in my efforts to "feel the fear and do it anyway."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fourth source of darkness is arrogance (self-righteousness), the sense that I know what is right for others without listening and trying to understand what they feel, want, need. the sense that I know what is better, period. I don't even always know what is best for myself. To walk in light and spread light I need to keep open, listening, learning, humble.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

It has been a good Saturday - productive in our paring of belongings and fun dancing to Hanukkah music with Liam, Ruth, Chris and Bob. We had Marie and Bill to dinner, lattkes and curry, smaller scale celebration than most years, but delicious and good company. I asked which darkness to throw light at tonight and Ruth suggested apathy. Deep darkness, that, and seductive. So easy to believe it doesn't matter what we do, how hard we try, that no difference can be enough. And yet I am so sensitive to other people's positive efforts, the note, the smile, the generous act, the words of appreciation. Everything good everyone does matters. And the thoughtless uncaring things hurt on the receiving end. So it does matter what I put out, small scale and large. My endeavor, to continue to care and to act on my values.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Hannukah Shabbat service was sweet, more people than usual, baby to elderly, anbd everybody clapped and swayed to some of the happy songs. My candle tonight is to brighten the darkness caused by impatience. Road rage, impatient behavior in line, failure to listen, especially to children, thinking about what I'm going to say next instead of to what you are saying - I am guilty at times of all of those. Impatience hurts. being ignored in the name of some's efficiency hurts. Being hurried hurts. I will make an effort to avoid interrupting, to make sure people are finished before I speak, to paraphrase, to acknowledge what is said to me, to smile in line and assure people I'm not in a hurry, to let hurried people pass, to use time mindfully.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thursday workday, first Hanukkah candle lit last night. Both facts have me thinking about light and darkness in the metaphoric sense. I am going to try, each Hanukkah day, to write a short piece here about a kind of darkness which I am distressed to see in my world, and also at least one promise I make to myself about lighting a tiny candle in that particular darkness.

Gossip, the need to make oneself feel better by criticizing others, is an insidious darkness. I hear it all the time, the criticism of how some other person is somehow inadequate, ridiculous, pathetic, unappreciative, just WRONG. I hear women talk about the physical appearances of other women, friends and strangers - and criticize either for "letting herself go" or for being obsessed with looks. I hear people dissect each other's marriages, parenting, self care. I get sucked in myself, and there is the momentary pleasure of connecting with someone else in feeling superior to the third party - but a dirty feeling follows. I commit myself more strongly to avoiding engaging in gossip of any kind and to either leaving the room or speaking up when other people do. I will look at how well my own behavior matches my values instead of comparing myself to others, for better or for worse.