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Not only mine, but tonight, the spirit of a dear friend. Do you think that as we age, our beliefs evolve just as our bodies and minds? As a teenager, I was firmly established in my own personal concept of faith, which encompassed many non-traditional beliefs, and which indeed still does. But lately, more and more, I have turned to words from the Bible and the strength of my friends who are so very firm in their faith that it is inspiring. I feel my spiritual perspective is expanding and compressing at the same time. Perhaps it is focusing in on something that is truly endless, and I am working at coming to terms with that seeming contradiction. I find prayer and God (or use whatever term you will) in the sky and the trees and the rocks and the sea. I look up during prayer, instead of down, with open eyes as if to catch the eye of God. I am reading the Bible and Anne Lamott at the same time. I am looking, not for answers, but for a deeper understanding of purpose, action, and what we can and cannot control. Are we indeed all grains of sand on a beach that God loves, forming into shells that house our bodies, and stones that reflect the clarity of light here and now, only to transform again into air and foam and and whatever form we will take next? Do we not even have the capacity to answer these questions to our own satisfaction – and is that in itself called faith?

the-heart-of-the-stoneTopsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: ““if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” — Anne Lamott

Daily gratitudes:
Our own form of prayers
MKL
Mr. Man
The easing of the migraine
The cricket in my bedroom

Because we have sunsets like this. I know sunsets are lovely almost everywhere (especially at the beach), but watching the sun go down behind the Rocky Mountains, and waiting for the changing, remaining light, is a blessing that not everyone gets to see in their life. If we position ourselves properly, we get to see it every day. There’s a Jimmy Buffett song that is one of my theme songs – come now, don’t you have theme songs? admit it… this one is called “Hula Girl At Heart” and you can hear it here, and one of the lines is “she always sees the sun go down”. Since I’m by no means a morning person, I’m making seeing sunset as often as possible (and as often as possible with MKL) one of my life goals.

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Lyons, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.” — Julie Delpy

Daily gratitudes:
A single peony from MKL
Actually figuring out some electronic connection (even though I don’t know how I did it)
A quest for the perfect vintage hat
Making it from bed to bus in 19 minutes this morning
Sugar-free Red Bull

I love looking at other people’s photos. I am so often left feeling envious, amazed and enriched.

Envy: not a good thing. It can run the gamut of “I wish I had their equipment” to “I wish I could travel like they can” to “I wish I was more comfortable taking pictures of people”. (As an aside, I initially typed “I wish I was more comfortable shooting people” and that just never sounds right. It would be wonderful if we could come up with another term for taking pictures besides “shooting”).

Amazement: I am constantly fascinated by how other people see things. I have my own eye, and others who have spent time with me on photo-taking days (which, when on sabbatical, can be every second of every day, much to my companion’s irritation) have, in my humble opinion, learned how to see the world a little differently because of it – and have improved their own photography skills in the bargain. As a bonus, I have expanded my own eye from seeing the world through theirs as well. But everyone has a different eye, and there are so many photographers who see things in a way I don’t. Hence, amazement.

Enrichment: a well-taken photo – which can be composed or accidental – can stir unexpected emotions within you. It can make you feel happy, make you laugh. It can make you curious about the subject, the location. It can fire up a train of thought about something dimly associated with the image. It can stir memory. It can generate lust, longing, sorrow, a sense of the bittersweet. It can disturb. It can inspire peace. It can move you to tears.

I think the core of this trio of feelings is amazement; the enrichment and envy are always touched by a peeking sense of being amazed. You can look at someone’s vacation shots and be bored out of your mind, or be fascinated by the way they see the world. Maybe that’s what it is – people who love photography, who love to capture that moment to share with others, see the world with slightly more focus, more passion, more purity and clarity than folks who just snap shots to doument a trip. I’m not judging here, truly. Those snapshots have a perfect purpose. They are just not the same thing as images.

An image is a reflection of what you are seeing. Almost a mirror, but with the glass itself colored by your own vision. That miniscule injection of your own sight and soul. That’s what makes an image special, captivating, amazing. The transmission of the eye of the photographer, slightly conscious and completely selfless.

That’s why I keep looking at other photographers’ works.  And that’s why I keep shooting.

Aspen image taken by Kelsea in Steamboat Springs last weekend.

Today’s guest poet  —  Greg Hewitt

Beyond The Pane

The frescoed cloister is closed.
No echo of omniscience
escapes to wind or metaphor.
A cottage holds three bowls,
earthen and chipped, on a table
made of planks smoothed by the surf.
One holds buttermilk;
another, tomatoes pale as moons;
the third, eggs the color of sand.
On the sill you would place a globe
of ivory roses to echo
the dolphin skull beyond the pane,
and think how sonorous, how bold,
this science of solitude.

Sounds like kind of a morbid topic, doesn’t it?  Well, I don’t intend for it to be.

I recall my Dad telling me long ago that the New York Times wrote obituaries in advance for famous people.  It makes sense – it saves the time it takes to do the research when someone dies, and in these days of instant media, it’s essential that accurate information is published immediately.  It would be a lot easier just to update an obituary with the latest highlights of someone’s life than it would be to compose it from scratch when they died.  I always had the impression that you knew you’d really “made it”, that you were really “someone”, when the New York Times had your obituary on file before your passing.

My friend Andrew had two different obituaries – one for the Minneapolis/Fridley paper, where he was living when he died, and one for the Boulder paper, where he had lived for so many years.  The two pieces had different qualities to them, with the Boulder piece feeling slightly more personal, and the Minneapolis piece feeling more tailored to his “current” life, as would be expected.  I don’t know who wrote either piece, but both did a fine job of expressing the elements of the man we knew and loved.

On one of my last visits to my Mother, she and I wrote her obituary together.  I can’t quite remember how the subject came up – I think I had asked her what she’d like it to say, and we decided it would make sense for us to do this exercise, so she could make sure it included what she wanted.  We actually had fun with it.  It was amusing and good mental exercise for her to think back about her life chronologically, and it required us to delve into her decades worth of journals to answer some of the questions. 

Thinking chronologically about her 80 years helped her appreciate what she’d accomplished, and helped her remember things that were important to her, things that weren’t at the forefront of her mind as she battled her cancers.  She wanted it known that she had learned 10 languages over her lifetime.  She wanted her education known.  She wanted her work history told.  She wanted her family achievements highlighted – her husband, children, grandchildren, brother, sister, parents, birthplace.

My parents were both avid readers of the New York Times, and like the Grey Lady’s  famed obituarties, my mother’s highlighted the unusual, precious and obscure facts that made her who she was.  (And if you’re interested, there are several books of New York Times obituaries, the most recent of which is  The Last Word – The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells: A Celebration of Unusual Lives by Marvin Siegel (ed.), available at www.amazon.com.)

I typed the whole thing up on the computer, adding a last line about how much light and love she brought to the world and how much she’d be missed.  She approved.  It felt good to her to have written it.  It was a loving closure, and it was one less thing for grieving family to do – she’d been very diligent about making sure we didn’t have to futz with “arrangements”.

I don’t know why I was thinking of this today.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a bit under the weather with some flu-like bug, and that always makes me feel uneasy, and yes, slightly morbid.  Perhaps moribund is the word?

How would YOUR obituary read if you had the chance to write it?  It might be an interesting exercise for a chilly winter’s day.

When you first start dating someone, you’re always on your best behavior.  You want to make sure you’re properly shaven or otherwise groomed (in other words, you don’t go a month without shaving your legs), that the house is tidy (tidier than you would normally keep it), that you’re dressed to intrigue and impress, and that you don’t do anything that would make the object of your affection think, “Ew, that’s DISGUSTING!  What am I doing with HER/HIM?”

Then, after a while, it’s bound to happen.  One of you is the first to pass wind in front of the other.  And the passer is mortified, while the passee, assuming he/she is still enamored, does everything possible to reassure the passer that “Oh, it’s okay, it’s a natural bodily function, please don’t be embarrassed, etc., etc.”  After all, truly, everybody does it.

Now, when the inital passer is the woman, MOST women will still make best efforts to ensure that, in the future, those normal physical emissions (farting, nose blowing, coughing up sputum, you name it) are done in the privacy of the boudoir or salle de bains.  (And if the inital passer is the woman, most men are absolutely delighted.)

But if the initial passer is the man, MOST men will take that reassurance of “It’s okay, it’s just a normal bodily function,” as carte blanche to suddenly start sharing ALL of their normal bodily functions with total and complete impunity.

Suddenly, the dynamic shifts from a discreet honk in a hankie to a farmer’s blow out the window of a car doing 75 on the interstate.  Passing wind is no longer accompanied by a blush, but now by leg-lifting, ass-thrusting, arm gestures and whoops of delight.

Peeing is not restricted to a bathroom, but to anyplace outside that is screened from the public eye by a door frame, rock, car door or tall weed (maybe).  The belches cease to be stifled – they become melodic (at least to the ears of the belcher), resonant, and occasionally involve portions of the alphabet.  And often, the emitter looks to his loved one for approval, like a dog that proudly brings a half-rotted, half-eaten deer leg to the back door.

I’m not against these sorts of things – I’m a natural kind of girl.  I don’t wear make-up or have my hair done, or get mani/pedis.  I’m happier in jeans, happiest in a sarong, and have no need of designer clothes.

So believe me, I’m not bashing men or judging harshly.  All I know is that, even when I’ve been the one who opens the gas gates, I remain discreet whenever possible.  I don’t quite understand why the opposite sex doesn’t feel the need to do the same.  In fact, they even encourage us women to join in the tooting revels, which also puzzles me.  As if it is something of a turn-on, which I can’t quite understand.

I am a genuine person.  And I think people want to be with genuine people.  But I also have a certain amount of natural decorum, probably from my GRITS upbringing.

Don’t men want women to be somewhat dignified and ladylike?  I mean they don’t want to date another man – if they did, they’d be gay.  Do they want us to engage in extreme cheese-cutting in order to make themselves feel better about their own actions?  I know there’s a certain desire for “a lady in the street and a freak in the bed,” but where does the whole ass-trumpet thing fit in?  Is it better or worse if I wear white gloves while serving air biscuits?

I don’t have the answers (though if you have more questions about barking spiders, visit here,) but I felt it necessary to raise the subject for contemplation, as it’s been on my mind for years.  In every relationship, I’ve opened the floodgates with my reassurance that it’s okay, and then spent the next umpteen years wondering why I did so, and how to close them, even slightly.  But like the “Walter the Farting Dog” series of books, the whole thing has its own unstoppable momentum.

I suspect it’s a lost cause, one of those delightful things that differentiate the sexes.  As a dear friend once told me, you look for the things to love in the people you love.  That’s easy to do – just keep the nose-clothespins handy.

And if anyone ever tells you that a dutch oven is a sign of true love, don’t you believe him.

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