Be(e) simple

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For the past three years, I have entered into the cool waters of Walden well into the autumn. My goal has been to swim until October and later, if my body can withstand the fast cooling temperatures of the deepest pond in Massachusetts.

This year, I have surpassed the October 1st goal by several weeks, all in thanks to the inventor of neoprene. Around this time last year, I received a wetsuit in the mail with a letter that read, “Now you can swim until the fish freeze!” I never had the chance to use it because the weather was not nearly as hospitable as it has been thus far this fall.

Hospitable it has been. Warm, humid, rainy, windy. Perfect for a dip in my favorite pond.

When I swim, I feel as if I have been granted the gift of entering another world. I am far away from the troubles of land dwellers. I can move my arms and legs and meditate on being surrounded by a liquid universe.

This past Tuesday, I swam way out to the middle of the pond. I kept my head above water, not feeling quite bold enough to get my hair wet. The possibility of hypothermia, even with a wetsuit, was not particularly appealing.

With my head above water, I could survey my surroundings in detail. A small commotion on the surface drew my attention. I noticed a tiny insect. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a wasp. It seemed to still be alive, so I placed by hand beneath it and gently lifted it above the surface of the water. I moved my fingers apart to let the excess water drain and tried to turn the creature over ever so gently. Its drenched body seemed so very fragile compared to my own. I felt like a giant sea creature, rising to the surface to aid in the rescue of a fellow traveler.

I tread water. Gradually, the wasp began to dry off and explore the surface of my hand first, then my sleeve. As one arm would tire, I would transfer it to the other. I knew this could not last indefinitely, but what to do? I am fully aware that humans with the best of intentions who interfere with nature’s systems often do more damage than good, yet I felt a kindred connection to this wee beast and wished to help.

Finally, a solution came to me. It seemed at once obvious and brilliant in its simplicity.

I could place it on my head!

I transferred it to the curly domain and continued my swim. The trip was successful apart from one mishap, where the wasp buzzed by my ear and my instinctual reflex to swat at it sent it flying back onto the surface of the water.

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Repeat rescue mission.

Continue swimming.

Two thirds of the way through my regular route, I noticed a second wasp. You might imagine what happened next.

Up and out of the water it went and onto my head.

Apart from a few moments of little legs wandering onto my forehead and causing a tickle, all went as planned.

As I swam toward the shore, my dad was standing waiting for me.

I stood up and walked toward the water’s edge.

“Are there two wasps on my head?” I asked him.

He took a close look. “Why yes, there most certainly are,” he responded.

I explained how I had found them and asked if he could carefully transfer them from my frock of curls to the shore.

“Don’t worry, they will not sting you. They like the warmth from your hand. Just place your hand beside them, and they will crawl onto it.”

Which is exactly what they did. In a bit of a daze, one wandered directly back into the water and had to be rescued yet another time.

Where they are now, I cannot say. But I wish them well on their journey, as I wish for you on yours.

“I should have taken a picture while they were still on your head!” my dad exclaimed after they were well on their way.” But it was too late. I guess some experiences are not meant to be captured beyond the fleeting beauty of a memory.

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Broken and healed

IMG_9744I am haunted by people and places from my past. Sometimes, visions come to me in dreams and other times in nightmares. I wake up from a deep sleep with a melancholy I cannot explain nor shake. It sits in a ball between my heart and the top of my stomach.

Where and why does it come to me in these particular moments, and why do I still feel past hurt with such present, real rawness?

My theory is that being in yet another time of geographical and emotional transition brings memories of people and place to the surface of my consciousness.

They are all a part of my, however much I try to bury the less than pleasant. I do not wish to play a martyr or victim, though this I have been told by one ghost from Alaska. I met this ghost during a particularly difficult time of transition in my life. He met me at what this culture would call “my worst,” though truly it was a time of great awakening for my spirit and soul. The awakening came at a cost for my own and others’ hearts. There was a storm before there was clarity and calm.

I have lashed out in self defense during difficult times of despair. I have said and done things that came from a wounded part of me. At these times, it was easier to respond with resistance because I simply did not have the energy to respond with empathy and understanding. I was in survival mode, clawing at whatever I could to stay above water.

As I have moved through one storm after another, the more challenging practice has been to learn how to respond peacefully, or better yet, not to respond at all.

Of course, this practice does not erase my past or heal old wounds. They are there, and I feel them deeply from time to time. Even coming to a better understanding of how and why events played out as they did does not always offer closure.

A dialogue within can be helpful. I am not convinced that a dialogue with people from my past would be productive, as we have each worked hard to stay the course from our own, individual perspectives. Responding through our own lens makes it nearly impossible to meet another person where they are and allow space for understanding and empathy.

I have known my own self for a long time. I am the person I have taken the time to know best, and I am quite accustomed to my own approach to situations, as well as my own way of processing events that come to pass.

The more I come to understand my own self, the more I am able to begin stepping outside of that self to view the world from the places where others’ stand.

If I could go back, would I do things differently? If I knew then what I know now, I would. But such is hindsight. It is not always 20/20. A wise friend once told me that no experience is wasted if you learn from it. So, I will continue to learn, make mistakes, and try my best to bring love into each new situation and person I encounter.

So goes the circle of thinking in my own head. So continues the hurt and healing in my own heart.

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Fall clean

The final day of September 2014 dawned grey and cold. The first morning of October was much the same: grey skies above, spits of drizzle falling from here, and sometimes there. Cool, damp air wrapped itself around the city and its inhabitants.

I love and despair of this weather.

I am not much for heat and humidity, but I do love being outdoors and swimming in clear, cool water. As the water begins to cool, I feel a bit melancholy that a period of life is ending.

Even whilst I bemoan the end of the my outdoor swimming time, I celebrate and fear the onset of the winter season. The fall and winter are a time of reflection beneath warm covers, for books, movies, writing, and music: a creative time.

By the same token, it is a dark time for me. A dark curtain; a misty shroud falls around me.

I am caught in the middle of an unending push and pull.

What I love most about the time between seasons is the transition itself, the sense that anything is possible and that there is the opportunity for change.

I dust off one layer of fear to find a layer of lethargy. Beneath lethargy lies fear. But the deeper I clean, the more hope and excitement I find.

I can begin anew.

It is a fire rekindled.

And this October, the fire has begun.

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York morning, listen

I listened last night

To the waves hit the shore

I walked through the front door

And saw the water

There was light shining onto one layer of sand

And the waves would crash once, then twice

And continue to pass over it

Had I heard this sound before?

It felt like the first time in a long time

And I felt comforted knowing

That it would not be the last

For someone

While I slept, the water continued to move

Each wave working to fulfill its sandy destiny

Til the morning

Without rest

I drink my coffee

Look out of tired windows

Through a white arch

Water on the grass

A woodpecker sings it downward spiral of notes

I listen

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Those who can

IMG_8489It would be pretty easy to start and end my day focusing on all that is negative in the world. It is everywhere, whether I look for it or not.

I could also imagine that I am a force for only “good,” but I know that I have the capacity for both the dark and the light. I do not necessarily think of this as a bad thing but more of an opportunity. What I am beginning to understand with more and more clarity is that I have several opportunities each and every day to choose which path I prefer to follow.

There has been a wave of heat over the past couple of weeks in the Northeast region of the United States, which has kept the water and air warmer than usual. Thus, I have continued my weekly forays walking along the pond trail at Walden and swimming in the clear water.

Recently, my dad has been joining me for the walking portion and exploring the shore while I swim.

As we rounded a corner close to my favorite spot, we noticed something different in the water. There is a place near the shore where two pieces of wood break through the surface. I pointed to them to show my dad where someone or some thing had placed two large rocks. Upon the smaller and lighter of the two rocks was set a small, light blue marble with white and pastel blue swirling patterns on the inside.

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It was beautiful. People walking and swimming by stopped to look at it and wonder over its construction. The light shining off of the water added to the subtle yet breathtaking presence it created simply by being.

After taking many photographs, we carried on walking along the shore, admiring rocks and feathers along the way.

I swam out on my usual path. As I was approaching the final stretch, my dad pointed out to the place where the two rocks had been. Only one remained. The wind had picked up, so I assumed one had simply fallen from its delicate perch.

I arrived at the shore, walked out of the water, shivered and reached for my towel.

Did the wind knock it over? I asked. The wind really picked up.

No, my dad said. Did you see him? he asked.

See who?

The man in the blue canoe with the yellow paddles?

No, I replied. Well, maybe. I think I did.

He went by and just knocked it over with his paddle.

Seriously? How nasty.

It really way. It reminded me of an 8-year-old child. Something a little boy would do.

That is so sad. I wonder what kind of unhappy existence he lives in that would cause him to do such a thing? I mused.

I guess we have witnessed both the good and bad in our species.

As I spoke, I knew that had I made different choices in my own life, I could easily have felt the desire to take out my own frustrations and resentment on that fragile construction. I could have chosen to be a victim to the world and its whims.

It was a good reminder that I never want to live that way.

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Of course, who can say what was happening for that individual person. I hope it was a whim or maybe a desire to keep a less human ambiance about the pond.

I will never know.

I did take the marble. I hesitated.

Do you think it would be ok if I take it? I had asked my dad.

What do you think?

I think sometimes things want to travel and sometimes they want to be still.

Will I create bad karma if I take it?

I don’t think so.

In the end, I decided the fairies had left it for me. A gift from the pond to remember it by.

Of course, that is the story I created. The most beautiful gifts are the ones that become a memory.IMG_8547

 

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The last day

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Another month comes to a close. With the craze of summer in full swing, I nearly missed writing a post for August. These past few weeks of songwriting, singing, and performance have taken the full depth of my attention.

It has also been a month of making choices and plans for the future.

My practice has increasingly become that of mindfulness and awareness: paying attention to the details of the world around me, of my own inner scape, and the unending dance between the two.

I find that the more aware I become of these realms, the more sensitive I am to the influence of harmful gestures by human hands.

This morning I read a moving article about the fate of the passenger pigeon and was reminded once more of the rippling effect our choices impose on the planet at large.

I began reflecting on my own choices, the ones that seem small but may be deceptively so.

I am an immediate being. I notice the immediate effects of my choices when the results are right in front of me, visible and real. I can easily be lulled into a false sense of the true impact of my actions, imagining the repercussions are more positive than they may be in actuality or not taking a moment to imagine at all.

My meditation for today and every day is to take notice; to make choices out of love, kindness, and respect for all beings; to honor the spirit of those beings who are no longer with us; and to help preserve the presence of those whose breath still cycles through each and every one of us.

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Wounded soul, I am sad for you

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I started my day with songwriting. For me, this is one of the most uplifting ways to begin a new day.

 

I woke up on the earlier side and met with a few folks downtown to begin discussing a new songwriting project. I left the meeting elated and filled with hope.

 

I floated my way down Merrimack Street on my home.

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As I walked by the Subway shop on the corner of Merrimack and Shattuck, I noticed several large pieces of metal and iron resting in a row on the edge of the sidewalk.

 

Intrigued, I slowed my step and gently touched a few of the minutes as I walked by.

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I set my bag and ukulele down, took out my camera, and took a picture.

 

A person sitting at the table spoke to be in a gruff voice. I would not specifically call him a man, for he was masculine in gender but neither noble or mature in action. A small black and tan chihuaha, who sat on the black, iron grated table beside him, behaved with more calm and poise than he.

 

Ma’am, what are you doing?

 

I am taking a picture.

 

I’m gonna ask you to stop taking pictures.

 

Why?

 

Because I asked you to.

 

I’m sorry. I am not sure why it is a problem for me to take photographs of these pipes.

 

Ma’am, just move on and get out of here.

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I am fairly certain this is a free country and as such, I am free to take photographs of whatever I want.

 

At this point, a young staff member came outside, smiled at me, and explained that they were redoing their A/C unit. This explained all of the strange metal piping.

 

Cool! I responded.

 

I proceeded to take a couple of photographs.

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The wounded soul at the table grew more defensive and aggressive.

 

He reminded me that I was to cease my activity and get the (*&^ out of there.

 

I refused to respond with anger or fear. Though I felt a slight, involuntary tremor running through my hands, I did not return his aggression. I felt an acute awareness of his energy and my own.

 

I told him that I recommended therapy for anger management. I really believe that therapy with a skilled therapist who fits your personality and needs is an incredible gift.

 

He told me to go do something constructive with my life.

 

I suggested the same to him, and I told him that I wished him well in as a pleasant a voice as I could muster.

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I really felt no anger toward him.

 

The entire interaction was quite strange and surprising.

 

From where did his defensive, aggressive behavior derive? What kind of hurt had he suffered from someone he trusted?

 

How could someone as diminutive and unassuming in stature cause him to feel threatened? Where did he learn that anger and verbal abuse was a reasonable response to an action that made him uncomfortable?

 

And why would anyone be counter to such a harmless act?

 

I will never know, but I do hope that he is able to find peace for his poor, wounded soul.

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