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I do not really know how to tell the age of a seashell, and apparently Google doesn’t either. So I’ll just go with my own, more romantic, mermaidesque interpretation. Having gathered thousands of shells in my life, I know when one is recently vacated by its resident. It tends to look shiny, with sharp ridges and vibrant colors. Given that bit of wisdom, I can only imagine that this conch, with its wave-beaten sworls worn down to soft semblances of their former selves, has seen a century or so in the sea. Its shadow, however, somehow reflects its past glory, with edges seemingly still honed. The shadow of a memory, perhaps.

Worn By the Sea
Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the day: “I seek truth and beauty in the transparency of an autumn leaf, in the perfect form of a seashell on the beach, in the curve of a woman’s back, in the texture of an ancient tree trunk, but also in the elusive forms of reality.” == Isabel Allende

Daily gratitudes:
A crescent moon
Corgis
Work
MKL
The first hearing of the twee-woo bird, a sure sign of spring

The discussion about how we were all so focused on saying prayers for the citizens of Parls, and yet not for the citizens of other terrorist attacks in 2015 gave me pause. I feel no less sorrow for victims of terrorist attacks in Beirut, Syria, Thailand, or yesterday’s attack in Nigeria than I feel for those in France. And I feel the pain of those who suffer ongoing terrorism in countries such as Rwanda and people such as the Yadizis. As an empath, I have had to learn how to shield myself from my own feelings about these world events, and to some extent, from stories about poignant tragedies and disasters, while at the same time immersing myself in those stories until I can comprehend them, instead of just feel them. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I am.

The uproar about our world’s lack of caring for other countries suffering similar attacks made me recognize (again) how our perception is driven by the media. Had we had minute-by-minute coverage on CNN about the Beirut attack and its aftermath, swarms of reporters heading to the scene immediately, and interviews with survivors and those who lost loved ones, perhaps our own sympathies would have been equaled stirred. But that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened with the terrorist attack in Yola, Nigeria yesterday. That same kind of intense media scrutiny might have generated similar sympathies. So yes, the media partially responsible for our reaction. It’s the only way we know about what’s going on thousands of miles away. In the early 19th century, it would have taken weeks or months to learn about a tragedy within a family if one branch were far distant. I don’t doubt that people lived from birth to death without knowing about atrocities committed on other continents.

(I will say here that the media did a good job of covering the horrific attack on the school in Kenya last April, and that my spirit was heavy with pain for the victims of that tragedy.)

Paris is a city that has been much more romanticized by western civilization than Beirut, Yola, Aleppo, or Kunduz. It has been the setting for films, novels, advertisements, vacations, and dreams, much more often than other cities that have undergone the trauma of terrorism, and that is another reason that last week’s events resonated more with many than did the other acts of terror. That doesn’t make it any more or less important. It just puts it more to the forefront of our personal vision. Had I known someone that had spent time in Beirut and fallen in love with it and shared that feeling with me, I don’t doubt that I would be more attuned to the daily events there. But, unfortunately, I don’t.

I appreciate the discussion about why we as a society did not seem to care as much about the other countries that were victims of violence last week and earlier in the year, and in the years past. It has made me recognize that I want to be more aware of what’s happening in the world, of the places that need the strings of my spirit to reach out with love and support across the miles. That’s now something I am committed to doing. It doesn’t minimize my feelings of empathy for Parisians, but it does make my empathy for other countries shine.

Like many, I wish there was more I could do. I am just one person. But all of us are just individuals. If we approach each other with empathy and love, perhaps all of our feelings of compassion combined can make a difference. I hope.

Love

Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” — Jimi Hendrix

Daily gratitudes:
Confirmation that my pregnancy radar is still functioning (no, I”M not pregnant)
MKL
Getting things done
Heightened awareness
Talks with Kelsea who will be coming home on Tuesday!

This image was taken this spring at the University of Oregon in Eugene, a piece north of Roseburg where the shooting at Umpqua Community College took place this morning. I felt it represented the emptiness that many souls in Oregon may feel tonight, and the ordinariness of a space in a college campus that can change from peaceful to terrifying in an instant.

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My daughter is now in college in Washington State, and even a state away, this kind of tragedy is too close to home. Having lived in Colorado during the Columbine shooting, when Kelsea was very small, I found that too hit close to home as well, simply because I had a child who was just starting school. Letting your child go to a place that is supposed to be safe, and then realizing that there is no such thing anymore, elicits a level of deep, maternal, instinctive, protective fear. I won’t get started on the dynamics I have had with my daughter of wanting to protect her, because that’s a very long story, and that’s an area in which she has always insisted on making her own decisions. I know exactly what her decision would be in an incident like today’s. She would be the one running in to stop things, not the one running out to safety. And that’s a fact I have to live with, that she would give her own life to save another person’s.

As a residual from Columbine, and listening to her talk about some of the attitudes at her high school, I was always a bit angsty about a school shooting there, but I thought that feeling would pass when she went to college. Apparently, I was wrong. I know though, that worrying does no good, and helps no one. I have no control over the actions of others. I can only put a white light around my daughter 1399.9 miles away every day and every night and hope it makes a difference.

Tonight, I say prayers for and send white light to those parents, students, and friends whose lives changed forever today. And for my friends in the Bahamas and North Carolina, to keep them safe from the ravages of Hurricane Joaquin.

Quote of the day: “She was asleep in her freshly made bed. I can’t explain how relieved I felt for this simple mercy. She was here and safe on clean sheets.” — Laura Anderson Kurk

Daily gratitudes:
Mr. Man
The hope that a new doctor will help my pinched nerve
Work
Seeing things before they’re gone
Working towards our future

You might have to look closely to grok this image. My words today feel like an interesting side dish to the picture.

When I was walking back from lunch with MKL today, a young man catcalled at me out of a car window. Now mind, I have just turned 53 years old, and I was not dressed provocatively. I found myself with a quick succession of thoughts that went something like this:

“Wow, that’s flattering. And at my age. Wait, no that’s not flattering at all – that’s rude. Where is my feminist side? Don’t parents ever talk to their sons about not yelling at women on the street [mind flashes to recent videos of a woman walking through New York with someone recording men’s responses to her and the video of reverse behavior with men facing hootsand catcalls from women]? Don’t most parents teach their sons to respect women? I was just totally objectified, and yet it doesn’t bother me. Why not? Because that young man did nothing to define me or who I am or how I feel about myself.”

Hmmm. Strange reflections.

Strange Reflections
Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” — Warsan Shire

Daily gratitudes:
The small herd of black yak we saw driving up to Steamboat
That my truck has four wheel-drive so I can get through my own alley that the utility company has turned into a mud pit
That Jess at Half-Girl Half-Teacup has raised my consciousness – a young woman wise beyond her years
That Mr. Man is acting a bit more like himself
That MKL loves me

I have been making a point of – literally – stopping to smell the flowers lately. Coming home from Job #3 on Saturday, I stopped by the creek and listened to the water and the birds, and watched the sunset. I’ll share pictures. Yesterday, MKL and I went to the car show (he’s a total car guy) and I’ll share pictures from there. And today, getting off the shuttle, I stopped to smell the peonies on the corner of 16th and Wynkoop, and caught this picture. And wanted to share it with you.

I suffered a loss today, a professional loss, and I was interested to see how hard I took it. As I told MKL over lunch, I found myself in my head doing exactly what I did at other significant losses – the deaths of my parents, my best friend, my dogs – in which I kept thinking, “Maybe if I do this, I can fix it.” Of course, that’s not possible. It’s magical thinking (and not in the good way), which I know I’m prone to. But it was a small piece of enlightenment about myself, and a realization of what a deep personal, emotional, investment I have in the projects I work on for my company. It’s something to think about.

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Denver, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean and pretty. The peony was unchaste, dishevelled as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty.” — Robertson Davies

Daily gratitudes:
The scents of summer
Infinitely changing skies
Old couples holding hands
That Anastasia Fawni got second place in her very first ever drag competition
That peonies bloom amongst the bricks and mortar of the city

Winston was one of the three iguanas at Sunset Cove in Little Cayman that we had the pleasure of meeting. He was the friendliest of the lot, and loved it when I petted him. We spent some quality time together. And he’s obviously photogenic. They take their iguanas seriously on Little Cayman. The single road, which crosses the airstrip, is dotted with “Yield to Iguana” signs.

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Little Cayman

Quote of the Day:“When it comes to looking after all the species that are already endangered, there’s such a lot to do that sometimes it might all seem to be too much, especially when there are so many other important things to worry about. But if we stop trying, the chances are that pretty soon we’ll end up with a world where there are no tigers or elephants, or sawfishes or whooping cranes, or albatrosses or ground iguanas. And I think that would be a shame, don’t you?” — Martin Jenkins

Daily gratitudes:
The movie “White Christmas”
Bundled up babies
Feeling less pain
Laughter
MKL

Daily words:
The kibble conundrum has yet to be solved, though the spirits, or me, did not break into my lanyard cat treat corral today, and when I returned home from work the bed was both debris and kibble free. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

My colleagues and I were speculating today on cat treats. Apparently, the different flavors of cat treats are barely discernible to cats. We think perhaps they flavor them to give us humans the illusion that we are offering our kitties variety. However, why do they not make cat treats in the flavors of the foods that cats in their natural habitats actually eat? Like mouse-flavored treats (which would help take care of my mouse issues), or baby-bird flavored kibble? These are the things that cats eat in the wild. I mean, when was the last time you saw a cat take down a cow? Or a tuna?  Is it just the lack of appeal to the human purchaser that holds manufacturers back from what cats consider true treats?

Just kibble for thought.

I am pleased to be contributing a letter to a book! One of my favorite bloggers, miss c at http://thekitchensgarden.com/ is starting her second book, a collection of letters that we would want our children to read after we are gone – or something along those lines. Miss c is an amazing woman who works hard to operate a small self-sustaining farm in the wilds of Illinois, along with being an author, a fabulous photographer, and an all-around lovely human being. I’m excited about this opportunity, and have been giving it a lot of thought. I wrote a letter to my daughter recently following the suicide of her friend, which I think might be appropriate, although it’s something I would share with her before I move onto the next place. So, should it be something about her grandparents? A favorite memory? Something about what I have learned about love, or about being a mother in the course of my life? I’m just not sure. Any ideas from you, my dear readers, would be welcome.

If I could have possibly climbed to this spot in Arches without falling to my certain death, I would have. It looks like a perfect spot for contemplation. And excellent balance.

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Arches National Monument, Moab, Utah.

Quote of the day:“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson

Daily gratitudes:
A drive with MKL on a beautiful day
Thoughts of the future
Classic cars
Sherlock Holmes
Cloudless days

The earache is better, but doctors so often just seem useless, don’t they? I have been feeling homesick for my childhood Christmases. I have always loved Christmas, but it feels so different now, without parents or grandparents, with my brother and his family so far away, with living alone, with so much work, with MKL busy at his house, and Kelsea so close to gone and so caught up in her own life. I have been away from ex-Pat for five years now, but Christmas at my ex-house was also such a cosy thing.

I can’t capture the same feeling of wonder and delight I used to have, and that makes me sad. It makes me wonder if perhaps I should lower my expectations for how I will feel. I expect to feel as I used to, and I don’t. It’s a quieter feeling, very poignant. Sigh. Perhaps this weekend, when I go to experiment with taking pictures of the lights in Denver, of the tree in the Hotel Boulderado, and finish shopping and wrapping and decorating, I will be a bit more aligned with the times. Or perhaps I need to focus more on the true meaning of the season. And start some new traditions with MKL. I shall think on these things.

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Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love….If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you.” — Rosemarie Urquico

Daily gratitudes:
That Mr. Man puts his paw on my arm when he wants to be petted
That I dreamed about my house for the first time last night
That Kelsea is done with her finals
My Mother’s nativity set from Italy that she splurged on when she was first married
Tidying up

On Poetry

I.
Poems come in rushes
or not at all.

They spill from the souls and pens unbound,
a waterfall of words rushing
down a passage of boulders
In the brain that would trap them
were they too weak,
Those words
Then left tangled and forgotten as something
choked and burned by summer kudzu or
an unrepentant murderous lover.

II.
When the words won’t come
or when they crawl,
disparate phrase by disparate phrase
following on the heels of an
inspired title,
I tire of trying to soothe them into order,
this rascally line of word children.
I let them play,
jottings only,
And the poem breathes,
Shallower
And shallower
Then stills.

III.
I cannot understand the man who,
for weeks has been
“working on a poem”.
You cannot rearrange water
once it has flowed onto a page –
you can only carve ice, but ice
does not curve,
not like liquid words
not like the bending turns of a poem.

IV.
A poem is or is not.
It is born of thought whole,
An Eve from somewhere behind a rib,
A Venus rising from her shell.
A tweak here or there perhaps,
After a night in a soft bed
(Never a refrigerator – too chill)
A cast of shadow caused by altered light
A pearl tucked in a tendril of hair
A wisp of chiffon draped over a bare shoulder –
just so –

But work?
Oh no.
A poem
Is birthed from soul.

Because of our senses, so many parts of the past are not lost to us.

Sight? We have images from as far back as 1826.

Sound? The first audio recording ever is from the 1860s. For Christmas last year, when I bought Kelsea her record player, I also bought an album of historical figures speaking, just so we could have a voice to attach to a name and a picture. We are cut off from this part of the past prior to the recorded word.  Such is not the case with visuals, as we have paintings prior to photographs that give us images from centuries ago.

Taste? Well, for centuries some people have had good taste and some people have had questionable taste, but we’re not talking about that kind of taste. We’re talking about, say, turnips. A turnip today – at least one grown organically – likely tastes pretty much like a turnip six hundred years ago tasted. Ergo, status quo. We retain a history of taste due to the unchanging nature of basic foodstuffs.

Touch? Ditto taste. A cat’s fur feels the same as it did one thousand years ago. I think. Not everything is the same to the touch but there is a living history, A rock still feels like a rock.

And so we come to smell. And here is where history fails us. The sense of smell is lost with time – it is the most fleeting and least replicable of the senses. You know the fragrance of a rose, yet one fragrant rose is unlike another. And many roses are having the fragrance bred out of them, either because of people’s allergies and oversensitvity, or because the scent is sacrificed for a more stunning visual beauty. Will there come a day when the scent of roses is just a memory? Can it even live on in essential oils if there are no more fragrant roses?

Florals aside, while we can look at Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s picture, Netherlandish Proverbs, and you can see a lot of what life might have been like in a Dutch village in the 1500s.

You can imagine sounds, because you know what a voice sounds like, what a goat sounds like, what a cacophony of noise sounds like, but what is missing is being able to imagine the rich aroma of the place and time.This was an era when people didn’t bathe often, lived in close quarters, kept animals on small parcels of property, and had no particular system for waste disposal of any kind. Of course, they didn’t have all the trash that we do now, but organic waste is just as smelly as any other kind of waste. And there was possibly a lot more organic waste than we have now – I have no idea what they did with dead animals.  Buried them, I hope. Or ate them, perhaps?  Times could be tough.

This one sense, which in each of us today, is so variable – some can smell things that others cannot – is the element of the past from which we are most disconnected. A curious thought.  Especially when scents can trigger such memories. When I open boxes that I packed up five years ago the day after my Mother died, her scent can waft out as if she’s by my shoulder. Perhaps she is.

When I was pregnant, I would have olfactory hallucinations – memories of smells from my past – primarily gardenias.  It was lovely.

But then Kelsea came up to me this morning and said, “Mom, smell my shoulder.”

I guess that sense of smell can be a mixed blessing.

 

 

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