Monday, August 28, 2017

Town crier

His voice rang out
in the dawn stillness
echoing off the roadway
that would hum with commuters
within the hour

Shouts, a jarring laugh
curses, stage whispers
he was young and looked strong
and when I saw
he wasn't on the phone
I didn't linger
to sort out his words

I could only bless him
this member in good standing
of the lost and lonely
who wander untethered
in our city
A town crier
whose news is not so good
a canary in the coal mine
of our failure
towards the least of us

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Being more generous and less accommodating

I have wonderful access in my life to wise and thoughtful teachers and coaches. And one of them recently said this in a workshop on relationships: Be more generous and less accommodating.  At first, this sounds like a contradiction. Isn't accommodating being generous?, someone in the group asked. The teacher said no. There's a whole different kind of energy that comes from generous than comes from accommodating.

Generous is something we generate, we create from inside ourselves. We give from some inner impulse, often one of love and caring. Accommodation, on the other hand, comes in response to something, usually something we don't really want but are willing to accept though not always from love and caring.

Here's an example from my life: A couple of Sundays ago, I spent time across the river in Vancouver painting with my friend Eileen and then visiting with my 96-year-old stepmom for a couple of hours. I got home late in the afternoon and it was hot and I was ready for a shower and my pjs. But I got a call from my friend Pam. She had car trouble and was waiting for a tow truck. Could I meet her at her mechanic's and drive her home?

There wasn't any question in my mind that I'd say yes. She needed help and I could give it. But as I got ready to respond, I realized I could respond from generosity or from accomodation. The difference would be not only in my words and my tone, but also in my body, in my energy. I chose generosity and said, "Sure, how can I best help?" It turned out to be a long wait for her and I picked her a couple of hours later and drove home. It took me an hour. But I could do it with a lightness of being rather than the weight of inconvenience and that was a great learning for me. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A birthday poem

She's 71 today
My best friend from high school
We still share
a love of reading
a love of cats

In those early years
we shared hours on the phone
Talking about
the everything and nothing of life

Long letters in college
briefly roommates in the City
then a triangle
not what you think
two women/one man yes
but I wasn't in it
Still I had to choose
and I didn't choose her

Three decades to reconciliation
Both glad to reconnect
Birthday dinners, occasional lunches
At the last one
she revealed her diagnosis
brain plaques
a memory that isn't processing
the everything and nothing of life

She was cheerful in the telling
She's always been cheerful
I hugged her
Everything and nothing to say

We count on those
we've known the longest
to hold their memories of us
and then that too passes
into the everything and nothing of life

Monday, August 14, 2017

A lovely book

I don't review books on this blog very often. I could. I read a ton of them and many good ones. But I used to be a professor of literature and book reviews seem like work to me. Not so Brian Doyle's 2016 novel Chicago. Doyle is a writer of lovely, gentle stories that contain a magical element. In this book, it's a wise dog named Edward who is as human as any of the other characters. It's been a wonderful summer read.

Here's a little taste:

"You never see a statue of the man who invented pants, for example, whereas there are endless statues of men brandishing swords and rifles and pistols, as if brandishing implements by which we steal the life from fellow holy beings is an admirable thing, more laudable than the genius of pants. By rights, there ought to be a statue in every self-respecting sensible city of a man brandishing pants, or a frying pan, or a beer mug, to celebrate inventions that clearly and inarguably made life better."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer cabin fever

My relationship with the out of doors has always been one of semi-ambivalence. I love a beautiful day as much as the next person, and you may not find anyone who loves big trees and flowers more than I do. But I'm not someone who wants to be outside in all weathers. I was surely born with the comfort gene as opposed to the adventure gene, and I am also a body sensitive so extremes are misery for me.

Last winter, during our big snow, I missed getting out and doing my regular routines but it was clear and sunny and the quiet hum of the heater was a welcome thing. And with my yaktrax on my boots, I could walk each day in comfort. I was a bit lonely after a few days but I was okay.

In the high heat of the past few days, I've been experiencing  a different kind of summer cabin fever. This summer shut-in feeling is quite different. All the curtains drawn against the heat. The noise of two Vornado fans in the living room and portable ACs in the bedroom and studio. The outside sunny and green and uninhabitable. My walk at 6:30 a.m. already too warm and I'm sluggish after a few blocks. The tinge of queasiness from my body struggling in the heat. The loneliness of long days and evenings mostly by myself.

It's curious how I don't get lonely when I spend a day by myself if getting out is an option and how lonely I can get when it isn't. Of course, I could drive in this heat but being in the car, contributing to further toxic air pollution, dealing with heat-cranky drivers? No thanks. I'll take cabin fever instead.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Amazon Prime is not the addict's friend

In the sweet little movie Mumford, the main character pretends to be a psychiatrist and treats patients in a small American town. One of his patients is an affluent woman whose addiction is catalog shopping. A whole large room in her McMansion is filled with unopened boxes from Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, you get the picture. She doesn't care about the stuff itself; it's the acquisition that does something for her.

I'm not that far gone. I don't buy stuff I can't use, stuff on a whim, stuff because it's on sale, stuff that I might need in the mythical someday. But if I need something, I got straight to Amazon Prime. No delayed gratification for this girl. And as a recovering food addict, delayed gratification is a muscle I need to build.

I know that awareness is the first step. I'm aware. Now to step into non-action.