Choosing Peace

Some years ago, I did the lessons in A Course in Miracles. It’s a year long spiritual self-study course with daily exercises.  The lessons: 1. love and fear are the two basic emotions and 2. only love is real. The rest is an illusion, and it’s up to you to see the love and the peace beyond it.

One of the exercises was an affirmation that I’ve been using a lot these days: I can see peace instead of this. Chanting it to myself keeps me saner than I might be otherwise in the face of world and local events.

At noon, I just wanted to check the weather. I turned the TV on, and turned it off again as quickly when the music in the key of urgency alerted viewers to breaking news about the latest high school lock down. I think I’ll stick with  and the NPR and BBC websites for news instead of sitting through twenty to thirty minutes of disasters, acts of violence, and celebrity misbehavior.

Excuse me…we interrupt this entry to bring you Vivaldi’s Lute Concerto in D. Please chill for the next six minutes.

Now, let us return to our regularly scheduled blog entry. Thank you.

It’s been rainy today. Oakley’s snores fill the spaces between the rattle of raindrops on the windows. Oakley wants peace, too.  This past summer, he did his part by reaching out to Sonny the cat:11792155_1047020835315903_4900873125049669005_o.jpg

photo courtesy Lanette Yingling,  Mid-Day Play Pet Services

I’m doing mine by making choices to create inner peace with gentle music, meditation and prayer, and using the above-mentioned affirmation. And limiting social media time. I can’t do much personally about world conflict, and can’t do much about strife on FaceBook, but I can and will create tranquility in my home through the use of music, candles, and incense.

Maybe it won’t make much of an impact on the world at large, but we can provide refuge for ourselves and all who enter here.



Looking for the Helpers

I know, I know….it’s been a while since I posted. Sorry.

Thanksgiving was pleasant–just me, Hubby, and Oakley. Classic menu, but sautéed spinach instead of green bean casserole. We watched a mystery marathon on WYCC as well as the National Dog Show. The  wind and chill rain prevented any appreciable time outside save for Oakley’s business runs.

I’ve been trying to stay off social media since the Paris and Beirut attacks. The venom and vitriol are overwhelming. After I spent an hour unfriending, unfollowing, blocking, and reporting, I couldn’t take it anymore and unplugged.

Both events me where I live emotionally: extended family in Beirut are OK, thank the Mystery. But Paris…I have no words. Even passing through DeGaulle on the way to Lyon I felt the magical hum of the city as it permeated the walls of the terminal.

Hubby was watching TV, and called to tell me what was going on. Like an idiot, I turned on France 24 (one of WYCC’s substations carries international news–France 24 is their equivalent of CNN, but better quality reporting). And there were the torn buildings and shattered glass and people who just wanted a Friday night out in shock.

I sighed. France is no stranger to violence, unfortunately. In the terminal where I spent the three-hour layover, a very young soldier patrolled the corridors with a serious-looking piece of armament in his hands. No expert on guns am I, but this sure as hell was not intended for hunting deer. A cold thread wove through me, not quite countered by the exquisite cup of coffee that I sipped with my chocolate croissant.

No croissants in the house that night, but I thought of a story Mr. Rogers shared. His mother told him that when something scary happened, look for the helpers.

And helpers there were–cabbies taking people home for free after the Metro was placed on lockdown; people taking in anyone who couldn’t get home to comply with the curfew.

I’m sure that there were helpers in Beirut as well, even if that was deemed less worthy of coverage.

And yesterday in Colorado Springs.

And every place where this sort of senseless action takes place.

You might have to look a little harder some times, but there’re out there.



Storm Riding

Last night’s storm earned its place in the books. I don’t know what the wind speed stats were, but they were high enough to ban trucks on I-80, some 20 miles south of me, for a good portion of the overnight hours. We had some rain, a few knocked-over trees, but nothing really serious like the snow in Kansas and the tornados in Iowa.

I laid in bed, listening to the roar of the wind and the creaking of the rafters in response. When we built, Hubby used hurricane clips to attach the rafters and decking to the house and each other even though builders he’d spoken with had said that they weren’t needed.  At the time they cost 50 cents a piece. They’ve proven to be one of the best investments against the winds that we get out here.

It’s just part of life in an open space. It is November, the month of unstable weather and days covered in rainy sheets. As with storms at any other time of the year, an eye is on the sky and an ear is on the radio for developments and warnings.

The day before this front came through was the 40th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s fateful run down Lake Superior from Duluth to Detroit. The Fitz didn’t even make the Soo Locks where she would have entered Lake Huron and sank near Whitefish Point not too far to their west. There were no survivors.

This storm’s barometric pressure was supposed to have similar numbers, and one of the local weather forecasters who had worked the night of the Fitz’s sinking was practically breathing into a paper bag. Any storm or one like it that could produce waves of a size that could take out a 700+ foot long ship is to be respected.

When the numbers started to play into the news a few days ago, I fought the urge to go get a big bag of potato chips and Coke. The standard storm routine in my very young days involved waiting for the tornado sirens to sing their songs of warning, then one of us would take the chips, another the bottles of Coke, another the the flashlight, and Mom would take one last look to make sure that everything that needed to be turned off was before we proceeded to the basement. Once down there, the radio would go on so we could monitor the weather, and in between reports, dance or roller skate or sit and read the boxes of vintage magazines from the ’40’s and ’50’s. When the watch was lifted, we returned to our regular daily schedules, perhaps a little disappointed because our fun was interrupted.

Sometimes we didn’t quite get downstairs, but that was OK. I have no conscious memory of this, but according to my dad, Mom and I would take afternoon naps in the big blue rocking chair. Our neighbors across the street had a huge maple tree that danced in the wind. One afternoon while my siblings were at school, Mom and I watched the tree as we sank into our nap. And sank so deeply that we didn’t know that the sirens had gone off until Dad called to check up on us and ask how our basement stay had been.

These days, much to the cardiac-arrest inducing chagrin of some of my friends, I stand in the field to read the sky. I watch until the lightning gets uncomfortably close, and I go inside. Even when our local siren emits its eerie wail I watch out the windows.

Not last night, though. The wind picked up through the day, and tossed the relatively small amount of rain around, making it sound as if more fell than actually did.  When the rain subsided, I took Oakley out for his last run of the day. We went to bed, listening to the creaks of the roof and the snores of the canine intersperse the Renaissance music that filled the darkness.

The Mortality Dialogues

The last leaves cling to the trees, defiantly bright as the wind tries to strip them from the branches and pile them on the ground in a tapestry of yellows, oranges, and crimson. Despite a couple of chilly days, 60-plus highs reprieve us from the inevitable crash of the temps as the month winds down. This will not last forever, I know.

Nothing does. A couple of weeks ago on a dark windy day, my stylist trimmed the last of my autumn-toned hair ends. I colored my hair through my forties, various shades of blonde, a lighter brunette, even red once. As the journey into my fifties launched, the cost in time, upkeep, and money to have a younger woman’s hair became questionable. When she was done, the final three inches of what had turned brassy and dried lay on the floor around the chair with a few snippets of the original dark brown, now with streaks of stars running through it.

I felt better. I looked younger, too, ironically,  without the silly brassy puff that sat on my head when I pulled my hair up and back with a clip. Took myself out for a latte to celebrate.

As I stood in the windy parking lot with cup in hand, I had an overwhelming urge to call a close friend. Not unexpected, as are season changes, but still a surprise, was the news that her father had passed the night before. He’d been in his last decline for the past six months. We chatted; I extended condolences while I watched the clouds cross the sky.

The clouds parted last weekend. Hubby came home to tend to business related to retirement. Get signed up for our own health care insurance. Get finances in order. We discussed everything calmly, no real reason to get upset. Made decisions, budgeting, when to sign up for this benefit, that investment, structuring this withdrawal. And then he said it.

“You’re probably going to outlive me by a long time.”

I got a little cold.

He, being a man of science and math, had a point with the calculation of the odds. His mom was in her early 80’s, but spent the last years in poor health. His father was only 40, and his end came from a head injury. His grandma was in her 70’s.

My family, however, was a different story. Both my parents smoked two packs a day. The last thing I saw my mom do the day she died was puff away on a cigarette. My dad smoked until his first heart attack and successfully quit, but did a lot of damage to himself with the diabetes and the drinking. Neither made it to 70. Three out of my four grandparents made it into their eighties and way beyond. Grandpa G. was a noncompliant diabetic and passed in his 50’s. Gram G. was 80-something, and the leukemia couldn’t be helped. Grandpa L. was 96. Pneumonia. He was getting pretty fuzzy at the end. Grandma L. was 98. I really believe that she’d still be here if she hadn’t broken her hip. Until her last week on this side, she was was as sharp as a tack and still slicing and dicing politics with the best of them when she wasn’t watching boxing of professional wrestling. (For the skill and expertise, you know. Yes, Grandma, I really would love to buy the Mackinac Bridge from you.)

My meditation teacher once said that impermanence is a gift. Watching the leaves fall is bittersweet, but the new ones will come in next April. It saddens me that my friend’s father made his passage, but my God, he had cancer and midstage Alzheimer’s. And while this week passes in a blizzard of paperwork and revamping budgets and the chill of remembering that we will not be here forever, we have the relief that Hubby has taken back his soul and made room for his true passion of woodwork.

We have another retirement-related meeting tomorrow. While we don’t know quite what’s in front of us, we can see a little further down the road. It’s still long, but we know and from some orientations can see that there’s an end.