A Variation on a Theme: Musical Imagery 

I suppose one of the observations I have had over the years with my own behavior and tendencies is that whatever subject or endeavor that I am interested in, my focus goes full boar. All in.

For example, I don’t just listen to classical music, I become engrossed in classical music. I listen to music daily and at times select a composer focus for the day. For a time, I kept my listening to the B’s: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms. Then, on another day, the Sonatas of Liszt and Chopin. Whoever the focus might be, I become fascinated by the carriage of their tunes, the push and the pull, the climbing and descending, the lilts and the hammers. When I listen, I want to hear the variations, consider the emphasis, play, or spirit of the music. Sometimes, I try to imagine what the composer might have been thinking at the time the music was created, what drama might have been playing out in his life, what imagery was he or she exposed to, what beauty or pain was he attempting to craft within the energy of the piece.

For me, that is what music offers. It’s an illustration of life’s moments. When I listen, it is hard for me to not consider these things because that is the very nature of music. I see pictures when I hear music.

A bird in flight.

A man walking a lane alone.

A dog lying on a beach with his tail swishing the sand and the waves as they come in while his owner is lying on a blanket nearby, shading his eyes from the sun. Then, the man’s arm comes back down because a cloud has formed overhead providing him with some relief from the glare. Now, the sun gone, the rain begins. Moments pass and then the waves begin to crash just a little more fervently than before and with each tumble up the beach towards the shore, the dog becomes more and more wet until finally, the dog rises and walks up towards his master lying nearby. The man on queue rises from his lying position, gathers up the blanket and calls the dog to join him back up the path towards the house. Afternoon siesta is over, time to run for cover. The sky has now fully opened up and the rain is pouring down in large sheets and the man moves his blanket to cover his head while running towards the house. The dog moves faster and faster as well, following his master up the path, now up the front stairs onto the porch and they end with their retreat into the homes’ safe walls.

This is not a scientific experience for me, necessarily. I guess I am just particularly driven to imagery. And, music helps me launch my writing to places I otherwise may not venture.

Today, I decided I wanted to experience some Schumann and I was delighted to have the benefit of hearing his music through the hands of Mitsuko Uchida, a pianist to whom I was recently introduced within the editorial page of International Piano magazine which I picked up at the local bookstore. Again, all in. I purchased a keyboard recently and I am relearning the piano, as an adult who has been away from the ivory keys for over thirty two years. In my return to the piano, I grab all the information I can get my hands on and find inspiration and motivation through talented offerings on my Spotify app and through my lessons on Udemy. All good stuff. And, as I listen to a new piece- a Piano Sonata No 11 in A- I hear a lullaby. A gentle piece that encourages a child to seek courage. To move beyond comfort, to walk towards hope. A story bubbles.

I imagine a time during the Victorian Era, a young boy of perhaps eight or nine years of age. He wears one of those blue sailor suits; a cotton combination with Bermuda length shorts. He sits on the floor of the parlor – his legs splayed wide as he bats his big blue ball from one hand to the other – back and forth in front of himself. Nearby, his mother is at the piano. The boy is bored. He wants to play outside. There are no children to play with. He continues batting the ball between his right and left hands and then pushes it at an angle so that ball rolls towards his black leather clad foot. He kicks it lightly and it rolls across the floor and gently hits his springer spaniel on the backside of his leg, as he lay sleeping nearby. The dog wakes and wags his tail at the image of the boy before him. This swishing action of his tail pushes the ball back towards the boy but not quite in a straight line. The ball stops and rests near the boy but somewhat out of reach. He will have to get up to retrieve the ball. The boy smiles at the dog. The dog’s tail wags some more. They’ve connected and that was exactly what the boy had in mind. The boy moves from his sitting position up to a standing position. He walks over and picks up the ball and pushes it under his arm pit, cradling it with his other arm. The dog gets up very slowly as well, exhibiting the ache in his extremities that come from his old age. This faithful friend has played many a game of fetch with the boy and although tired, he makes his way up to a full standing position and begins his sway back and forth as he manages to follow his master outside to play ball. The boy walks slowly to allow the dog to keep up. These are two soul mates that care deeply for one another.

They make their way together past the manicured gardens and out toward the open field, still in view of the home’s bay window where mother continues her scales up and down the keyboard. The sun is shining. The boy left the door open so that as he plays with his dog, he can still hear his mother’s measured tones and occasional high shrills as she now makes her way through Mozart’s Sonata Facile No 16 in C; a piece that is as well known in his system from the years of hearing it as it is in his mother’s fingers. The boy allows the ball to fall from his hands and bounce slightly. With his right foot he begins the gentle kick of the ball forward and catches it with his left foot as he steps forward. He does this again with the left foot and catches it as he lunges forward with his right foot. And he turns and faces the dog who has now sat down to take a break. “How are you, Sir Thomas?” The dog cocks his head in response and opens his mouth to bring in some fresh air and cool down. It’s as if he is smiling back at little Jack. Jack moves to the dog and kneels and places his arms around the dog “it’s Ok Sir Thomas, no need to work up a sweat today”. The dog immediately lays down on the grass in gratitude and shows his belly and looks up at Jack “Pet Me” he seems to be saying. And Jack obliges. And then finds himself laying down beside him, and moving onto his side, he pets Sir Thomas on the belly vigorously- as requested. Sir Thomas’ left leg begins a gentle beat of gratitude as Jack hits just the right spots. They linger in this way enjoying the sunshine together, cherishing these summer moment, which will soon be over since school starts in just a few days.

And there is the start of the story of a boy and his dog Sir Thomas. Thank you Schumann, Mozart & Mitsuko.

Mozart over, the music turns to Albinoni, the piece now is Adagio in G. As I listen, I experience the sorrow as it slowly moves from a high note to the depths of the keyboard into a dark area. In one moment there is hope and in another there is despair. I sense a quiet hollow sadness as if grief is in the air, there is a feeling of just having missed a critical opportunity or that something or someone has been lost. With this change in composer and piece, I thus find myself walking down a very different lane. On this path, there is a deep sense of loss and I imagine that an unexpected tragedy has befallen my heroine.

Daria sits in the bay window on a padded bench, her one hand holds the curtain up to gaze outside, in the hope that he will return at any moment. She tugs at her lower lip with her upper teeth, a small lesion forms there and blood appears. She had not realized she was cutting herself so harshly with her incisors. She sucks the blood into her mouth, licks her lip and tastes the salt. She gets up and paces. She is grateful that Gertrude is gone, she would only make matters worse. Yes, she is glad she is alone at least to bear this burden alone, with no background chatter. She couldn’t bear having to listen to a narrative about her silliness and self centered behavior. No, not today. Then she hears it, the thunder of hooves outside coming closer and closer to the front entrance of their family’s manor home. She rushes to the mirror to check her image and push some loose auburn strands back into her bun. She pinches her cheeks and smoothes her billowing skirts. She goes to the front door. She waits for his knock and then finally, it comes. She slowly opens the door and tightens her facial features so that they are as dead pan as possible. They must not call her out. Calm, cool and unaffected. This must be her demeanor if she is to save any face in this situation.
“Daria, forgive me” he utters in a barely audible tone. “I don’t know what came over me” Oskar looks at her with eyes of plight, as if to say – please Daria, please give me one more chance.
Daria keeps Oskar in suspense. She moves her eyes up and over his brow and looks over at the side chair in the foyer.

“I am not sure I can bear it, Oskar, all your nonsense”.
“What can I do to receive your forgiveness, what can I say?” He begs. He dips down to one knee and holds her delicate hand up to his lips “please tell me, please”.
She looks down at him and offers the slightest smile.
“Well, if I must – you can promise me that under no circumstance whatsoever, will you ever mistrust me again- or I daresay, I may never recover again.” She looks him deeply in the eye.  He returns her gaze and considers her ultimatum.
He kisses her hand “no, never, I will never underestimate you again my dearest, never again, you have my word.”
And with this he rises and kisses her fully on the lips, a long hungry kiss that lasts for many moments.
Then, when he withdraws from her and steps back “what happened to your lip, Daria- is it swollen?”.
“Oh, dear me” she responds “it must be the weather.”
They both smile and walk arm and arm through the foyer out towards the back door and down the garden steps, as if nothing had happened in the first place.  All is well again in paradise.
So it was not a tragedy after all, but rather a tease. A playful romantic exchange that offered a window into a somewhat superficial coupling laced in dishonesty and lack of integrity. A game that will likely end in hurt, someday. A relationship based on surface importance and one that misses deep purpose.
Indeed. Classic music. Instrumental fare. So much to consider, so many angles. So many settings and people and emotions and motivations. I could create a story of honor or one of frivolity. The beauty of writing is that I meet the players and experience the exchanges through each keystroke – both those typed and those heard. And, I will follow the keys and look forward to the next adventure and hope to share those along the way with others.
Thanks for stopping by, for reading and listening and hearing.

Chalkboard of Childhood

I remember the dusty black chalk board in my first grade classroom on the second floor of an asylum built in 1857 which had been converted to a private elementary school at the end of WW I. The blackboard was on the far right wall as one entered the classroom, the large windows faced forward on the building overlooking a walled courtyard with a beautiful maple tree at its center. Our desks faced the chalkboard so that our right sides were graced by the sunlight streaming from the windows. I remember mathematic equations on that board, grammatical exercises as well as the occasional art mural formed by placing a cardboard surface onto the chalkboard and covering it in tiny colored papers that had been rolled by our small fingers into little balls and pasted onto the hard paper. The images ranged from a winter scene to a floral display. My fingers were sticky with glue during those projects.

Our classroom was so close to the maple tree in the courtyard, that at times when I glanced out in a day dream during class, it felt as if I could touch its branches. It was as if when building the school, it had been built as part of the tree; a school treehouse. This was the back drop of my childhood for about five years in the early 1970s. Ecole Blanche de Louvencourt is situated at the cross roads of Rue Alexandre Dumas and Rue de Louvencourt in the small town of Marly-le-Roi, France. The school was at the periphery of Old Marly, where one found crooked cobblestoned streets with various slopes and gradients, offering small shops with curiosities and antiques, as well as basic provisions like the Charcuterie where we picked up our meats, or the Boulangerie where we ordered the best pastries and breads, and the small grocer where we could shop for other basics like milk, and cereal and various sundries. This was all found at the top of an incline street which led in the other direction down to the train station and post office, past my dentist and on the way towards the open air market which was my route home from school each day.

Thinking back, I wonder why I always took one route to school, and a different one home.

Each morning, I would walk that other street to school; the one that passed the public elementary school and library tucked into the center of our village’s public gardens, to the corner where one met the crossing guard and then walked the quiet side street leading to my school coming at it from the left side of the school. On my way home, I left the school courtyard by exiting the school taking a right and then an immediate second right turn down the residential street that had this somewhat steep incline and would find myself in the square that housed the post office, train station and a few shops including the bakery. After picking up a baguette of bread for Mother, I would continue my journey cradling the warm loaf in my arms and urging myself not to pull the hot dough out from its center; the smell of the bread taunting me with each step. I would continue by ducking through one of the small tunnels that went under the railroad tracks coming out next to some homes that led to the open air market which was in full swing once or twice a week. Otherwise that market was quiet and the surface of the lot would be littered with debris from the previous commerce transactions, interspersed with puddles of water from the workers having washed up after business was done.  At times, I would play a game of hopscotch in my mind, dancing through those puddles- hopping on one foot and balancing my bread for leverage.

From the market, I would continue a short distance until I came to Chemin du Bas des Ormes – where our family home was stacked into a modern apartment complex.  We had  the luxury of a separate building for our underground parking lot which had a gravel roof that was used for recreation. It was common on a Sunday to find many fathers playing Boules; a game of throwing colored heavy metal balls with the aim to get as close to the small red ball target as possible.  Children would be laughing and running and playing nearby and occasionally, one of the men would call out in a loud shush to make us quiet down during his turn, so that he could concentrate on the task at hand: throwing his heavy boule underhand and with great intention to bop another boule out of range of the small red ball and increase his own chance at a win.

 

Those are days of fond remembrance. I don’t recall having any heavy burdens back then, nor fears to speak of. It was a time before strains; prior to learning the ache of loss and uncertainty.

Melody, Harmony & Prose

Casio keyboards are on sale down at the local music shop. I had been considering dipping back into music for some time. The weekend offered me an opportunity to dive in. It’s official. My new Casio Privia PX 160 is on order. According to the clerk, I should have it by Wednesday; Friday at the latest.

There are so many pieces I want to play. I would start with the ones I remember from childhood. Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata By Beethoven, Nocturne by Chopin, and Campanelle by Liszt. But there are dozens of others lying at the periphery of my mind; pieces that have been a part of my system since childhood. You see I may have stopped playing the piano when I hit my early adult years, but the passion never left me. The passion for music, for the keys, for the sounds that climb and undulate and fall and climb again. The softness, the subtle ebb and flow as well as the passionate crescendos.  

I purchased a book on music theory yesterday, one of those illustrated guides for people (so they suggest) of smaller intelligence. A back to the basics book on how to play the piano. What struck me was how little I recalled of having been instructed on theory. It was as if all those years ago, someone placed me on a piano stool, put the music sheet in front of me and just said, there- play that measure. And I stumbled along. I don’t remember loving playing the piano back then, and now that I think about it I was frustrated with it. As I look at the “101” on piano playing before me, it encourages me as I read from A to Z on everything from the keys on the piano keyboard, how they are divided from middle C up one side to the right and down the other side to the left. I relearn how many beats one note gets vs. another and what rests are, sharps and flats. Chords. The difference between a melodic interval and a harmonic interval. The more I read, the more excited I become. And my mind hears the music. I can see it and hear it and feel it. And I can imagine myself enjoying hours of play. No recitals. No pressure. No cracked whip, just me wanting to put in hours of time to get to a place of piano comfort. A place where I can relax and enjoy the delightful songs and release.  

And then it hits me. I need time. More time. When am I going to finish my novel if I am practicing piano, and knitting and walking the dog and working my regular job. There is just not enough time in my day to fully enjoy all the things I love to do. No time for boredom, that’s for sure.   

I am grateful for my interests. For my passions. These things that make life richer. So, I will find the time. And I will divide up the time in a way that pleases me, because this is for me- not above me or pressing me. No oppressing me. These activities are sources of joy and they will remain so. I will put the time in and shift my focus from one thing to the other as the inclination dictates and it will balance itself out. From these activities, I am recharged and refilled with joy. This is good. This is right.

I do have a feeling about this music thing though. As much as I love writing and can’t imagine life without it, I have a feeling the music will help drive my writing.   Very likely, t exposure to that other creative side will only enhance the art of words flowing through my fingers. That in some ways the words will grow with their own form of lyrical movements through the page. The right pause. The right lilt. The press, the push, the pull and the sway. They will all be there through dialogue, setting, movement and narration. That somehow I will find my voice through this secondary stream of subconscious connections to the rhythm of my heart and my blood, flowing through the music and onto the pages. 

For as long as I can remember, music forms specific imagery in my mind.  One song conjures rain drops on a windowpane, another brings up a picture of a man walking alone along the Seine River, his head bowed and a stiffness in his shoulders permeates his mood.  Loneliness.  Isolation.  Another piece evokes energy.  Like the horse rushing through the fields, moving up and down in a staccato gallop, it’s hooves thundering the ground below- causing any life beneath the surface of the earth to scamper in other directions. And this horse carries on this way until she reaches the shoreline and then sweeps herself into a curve of motion now running parallel to the crashing waves at her left side. Her gallop slows to a gentle trot until she comes to a complete stop in her favorite place, where the rocks and waves form a pool and she dips down sniff the salted water. She looks up and sees the high cliffs and the birds circling above. This scene forms through music in my mind. And I imagine the images of scenes such as these bubbling up as I play scales and chords and soft melodic movements highlighted by expressive chords. And I realize that Wednesday (or Friday) just can’t come soon enough.

Expressive Adornment

There is something about a hat.
It gives a person a different air, character, appeal or quirkiness.   
As I sit in Panera typing away, a man appears with red shorts, flip flops a navy t-shirt, goatee, salt and pepper short cut hair, trimmed nicely at the back and on top of his head he wears one of those Indiana Jones hats – it is made of straw coated perhaps in plastic, it has a few air holes to vent and a leather strap around it. It’s squashed like someone might have sat on it in the car. But nevertheless, he has it on his head anyway, because the hat finishes his look. His store provided pager rattles letting him know his bagel is ready and he walks over to grab his platter from the counter clerk and then returns to his table for two, sits down and continues his conversation on the cell phone. His table is in front of me, and he sits with his back to me. He looks out the window facing a sea of cars in the parking lot. He finalizes the conversation with a salutation, pushes the end button on the phone to end his call and then he bites into his bagel. His hat intrigues me.  

I had just been thinking about the hat rack in the new Fresh Thyme store that just opened across the lot when I made my way to my own parking spot about fifteen minutes ago. Has it already been a week and a half since that store opened? In one corner of the store near the vitamins and health products, there was this rack full of different hats. Sun hats, visors, straw hats and baseball style caps. And there was one that I recall drawing my attention; it was a variation of the one topping the man’s head in front of me; a bit wider of a brim, might have been a different substance too- maybe felted, maybe canvas. Yes, it was canvas. A canvas Indiana Jones style hat with the bill just a bit longer in front compared to the man in front of me. The sides were more narrow. The hat was more tailored somehow, refined. And I remember thinking I might like that hat.  

What stops me from buying hats is that once I put one on, my hair forms to the hat and then I either have to resolve that the hat will live on top of my head the entire day, or I will have to content with horrible hat head later. Plus, this time of year I tend to sweat and so that moisture creates another element in the hat hair forming project. The moisture with my hair products is a sort of chemical solution that helps shape my hair into whatever the surrounding environment will push it into. This means that if something is lying on my head, even for a short time period, my moist head will combine the solutions from my hair products and will shape of my hair into an unappealing hair mold. Kind of like that fuzzy pumper barber shop toy for kids that takes modeling compound and creates hairdos for the plastic people using a mold with various textures and styles. So although I have purchased hats over time, I generally don’t wear them. 

I do have a favorite hat. It’s the one I bought many years ago at the flea market in Paris, France. It is a soft vanilla white colored straw hat with the sides curling upward, kind of like a bowler. The band around the crown has perfectly dried soft pink cabbage roses, various sprays of green fern and other sprigs of stems and leaves and two bird feathers, one a soft green feather with a tinge of peach and the other seems to come from an exotic bird, the feather is like that of a peacock but not quite. And this cornucopia of color forms creates a charming effect which when I had placed it on my head all of those years ago in that tent in the flea market, I could not walk away without it. I would fit in well at the Kentucky Derby with it, but not quite what people are wearing around Minnesota in summer.

   

The hat is stored in a hat box, to protect it from dust and moisture. And it lives under my bed. I don’t wear it – partly because of the whole moisture and hair mold effect hats have on me, but also because it is one of those hats that when you wear it, heads turn. I love the hat. I don’t necessarily love the attention. But I wonder, would I be up for a character make-over of myself? What would life be like if I became more eccentric in my outer garb. There is this part of me that would love to wear big flowing dresses with ultra feminine shoes and bold necklaces and big red lips, and hats. A hippy par excellence. That is, a gussied up gypsy with elegance. My own style. And more often, wearing that Paris Flea Market Hat. Why not?

Right now it feels like I buy things just in the hopes that they fit and that I will be acceptable for my daily activities: work and play. Just blend in and live in harmony with my surroundings. Don’t stand out. Be acceptable. My clothes to date have not really been about expression. Well, actually, that’s probably not entirely true. Especially lately. There are glimmers of my personae that are leaking through my ordinary effect.   

Today for example I wear blue green, orange and pinks with white accents. For the first time this past nail session with my nail salon, I pointed at the color swatch presented by the nail technician and asked for the blue green. Yes, blue green. Years ago when this first became popular, I thought it was ridiculous. Today, my twenty nails on both hands and feet, have this vivid Robin’s Egg Blue Green Color. I have had compliments. Especially on the toes. During summer they peer out from sandals. Today, my sandals are cork wedged white straps with a series of three white leather flowers budding from the tops of my feet- with blue toenails peaking out. And I like the toes. Not sure about the fingers- this will likely not be repeated as it really wasn’t my best look. But nevertheless I tried it and it was fun. And in about a week, I will likely go back to the more traditional and perhaps select a pretty coral to go with the end of summer.    

On my right hand ring finger, I wear a large silver Byzantine ring that I bought in Greece. It is a big chunky ring with a pattern of flowers and leaves that weave their way around the ring’s flat surface on top and around my finger. It is gorgeous- I fell for it immediately when I spotted it in that little gift shop across the street from my hotel in one of those villages in Santorini built as a maze of cobblestone and white washed buildings, a blue domed church soaring to the clear blue sky above. In another store, this time in Mykonos, I found a silver necklace with from the same designer as the ring. This piece has a Byzantine bead with a tassel coming out from underneath. I have been wearing both pieces most days since my return from Greece three months ago.

And then, there are the colors I wear. I do wear color. Red or Orange Pants, plaid orange, yellow and red shirts. Santorini Blue embroidered shirts. Colorful. I like color. I am not afraid of color. So, I suppose it is starting. Color is fairly recent for me, within the last two years. Formerly, most of my clothes were black, grey and brown. I am just realizing this metamorphosis of color appearing in my wardrobe. I own one skirt which I bought for the Greece trip. I have yet to wear it at work. Perhaps that is next on the list of courage steps towards a more expressive self.

This reflection opens me up to an awareness of my evolving journey of creative adornment. As I move forward, I will be more open to the daily process of dressing myself and employing accessories. The goal is to be covered up for public display but also to enjoy the fabric, the color, the expression. Before I left the house today, I saw my reflection in the mirror and realized in my haste that I didn’t have any earrings or ring or necklace on my person. Oh my. I rushed back to the bedroom to put on my adornments. Ring in place. Earrings on. Necklace dangling. Next time, maybe I will put on the Paris Flea Market Hat!

  

Quiet and Desperate

 

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Peering at the clock above my desk at work, I cringe at the realization that I have gone five minutes over the time I had anticipated the project would take. I am now late. And, I have more details to finish before I can even consider an exit. I will be late to my class tonight. This class I had committed to in order to follow my passion. The class that conflicts with my work life even though technically it is scheduled for thirty minutes after my work day ends. The commute is too long for this thirty minute window, so I have received permission to end my day one hour early, giving me an hour and a half to reach my destination.

But now, as I look at the work before me on the screen, as I feel my eyes and their dryness and the painful ache; as I feel the burn in my upper stomach from lack of nourishment, as I consider the exhaustion setting in from a day worked too hard; as I consider all of these things: I cave. I realize that the reality is that I will likely skip class.

I hate myself for this surrender.

I more than hate myself, I sense the guilt and oppression filling in the empty spaces within my soul. I am screaming inside that my life is simply too filled with stuff I have to do, instead of things I want to do.

It’s likely, for the most part, everyone’s story. Most people have certain obligations they are tied to because of what they signed up for: work, marriage, parenthood. The list goes on.

A life of quiet desperation. Have I not read that somewhere? I am sure that I have. It is some other famous person’s words. So of course I google it and I am struck by the fact that it is from Walden- Henry David Thoreau. A good friend of mine gifted me his book a few weeks ago. I have not yet read it, have not even thumbed through the pages. But it is a plight of mine- to live more authentically, to dive more deeply into a world that cradles my true self, my creative self and allows me to work towards my purpose. Isn’t it interesting then that the words about living a life of quiet desperation come to mind. All I know is that those words echo inside me- quiet desperation. Generally speaking, I don’t vocalize this too much with people, I just chug along on the expectations express highway. Each day peels off from the next until weeks and months pass and I reflect on years past when I had the same goals that I still carry with me today. Goals I have not achieved. And I grow bigger, and my face grows more white and splotchy. And my overall health looks questionable. I am not healthy. I am not in my best place.

I wrap up my work day thirty minutes later than I had wanted to and head for the parking ramp. I make it into the car with enough time to technically make it to class on time. Or at least I reflect that I should make it on time, barring any major accident or road construction that might have surfaced since my morning commute. I recall that on one bridge I use each day, the flashing bulbs of warning foretold of a lane closure bringing the bridge traffic down to one lane in each direction. Note to self, avoid that bridge for a few days.

And so I find myself in my car spinning down the floors of the ramp: 3 swing and turn, 2A swing and turn, 2 swing and turn and then 1; ground level and I exit the ramp and I make the appropriate turn to direct my car onto the freeway towards the downtown exits. I successfully navigate through traffic, no major accidents. I am about ten minutes away from class start time. My stomach growls, my eyes hurt. Do I really want to sit in a class for two hours listening to other people’s work? I should do this because these budding authors need my input as much as I needed theirs. It’s not fair leaving them high and dry. They need my insight … Or do they? I reach for the visor to check my reflection as I idle at a red stop light. Uggh. My complexion is pasty, my eyes are bloodshot, my eye makeup has completely rubbed off, my pores are wide open. My hair flat and dull. I look exhausted, I look like crap. I don’t feel like being in that class room right now. I just don’t feel like.

So I find my car passing the building where my class takes place and instead, I work my way back out of the downtown zone, back towards the freeway. But this time, I am on an on-ramp heading to a completely different part of the city, and I am not on my way home. I find myself moving in the opposite direction. What is at the end of this route? What types of restaurants or coffee houses that might offer food other than muffins? A place where there is WiFi and where I can pull out the keyboard and record my thoughts. Work on the novel. Spend time writing. Being alone. No one to bother me and no one to have any expectations of me. I need this right now. Barnes & Noble- at the mini-mall half way to my home. The one with the big cafe and many tables. The one that has the various affinity groups that meet throughout the week. Where community gathers. Yes. That one. I need to somehow navigate my way back towards home so I can stop there on my way and spend some much needed down time.

My car works its way through various routes and waits at numerous stop lights until I am safely situated in the parking lot of my favorite mega book shop location. Yes. Carmel Macchiato with a sandwich. That’s exactly what I need.

I refresh in the restroom and find my corner with the requisite refreshments and food. And, pull out this key board and start working. In the background, a group of seven are talking French. yes, that’s right, that French club that I participated in for one session all those months- maybe years now, ago. They are chatting away. None of them look familiar – for which I find some relief. It’s fun to hear them, I understand every word. But I push myself into a different plane – a space of reflection and writing. A safe space.

And I am glad that I listened to my inner voice. That I sit here instead of in a classroom. That I am allowing myself room to do what I need to do regardless of the class commitment.

Some would likely call me a cop out. Perhaps uncommitted. Perhaps, unreliable.

Today, I have spent each waking hour being reliable to dozens of people- struggling to meet so many deadlines and so many expectations. My body aches from the stress and there is this part of me that wishes I could go home to a space of quiet where no one asked me questions, no one expected an answer. No one would become offended if I headed straight for my own space. No one would ask me to program the new land line phones waiting to be set-up since their purchase the night before; I recall the voicemail at work from Dad earlier today: “Sweetheart- can you program the dang phones when you get home? They are not working. Should I return them? Should I bring them to Best Buy’s Geek Squad to figure them out- pieces of garbage. Why do these things have to be so complicated? Ok- talk soon.” And the phone goes dead. I have a task tonight. Another tech support function to fix the issue before I can do my own thing. With this class, I was meant to be home after 9pm but without my help, the phones don’t work. And I realize that this is part of being at home in their golden years. Each night, always a task- always an expectations. Another reason I am glad to not be in class right now. Instead I am taking valuable time to just be with me, and express and type and figure out my life. As best I can. An attempt at reducing a bit of the desperation and replacing it with some peace and some fulfillment. Something to take me through the next day.

Now Is The Time… Don’t Wait.

I witnessed a friend’s last breath on Saturday. It wasn’t planned. It just happened that way. It was the first time I had been a part of such an intimate and final moment in someone’s life.  
I have experienced the loss of loved ones. But this was upfront, close and very personal. It felt wrong in a way, and right in some many others ways. On the one hand, I felt I was infringing on a private moment while at the same time I was playing a vital role in supporting those who needed me nearby, to be there in this heart wrenching space.
It was brief. About fifteen minutes lapsed from the moment the tubes were removed to his final gasp and the emotional breath subsequently that pushed through his wife’s throat as she held his hand.
And then, it was over.
A few short moments later, another friend in the room starts talking about food for the funeral.  That felt very odd. Taking care of business. Cold.  It’s how some cope.  I suppose that’s ok too.
My mother and I left shortly thereafter, to give our friend and her husband now passed on- some needed privacy. Time together to take in this moment. To try to understand it.  Our friend was ashen, her look conveyed complete disbelief as her niece cradled her in comfort.
It took me a few days to wrap my head around it.  I am still processing it.
One thing that becomes clear to me is the focus on positive energy.  
There is so much negative in our world. So many moments fraught with distress. Politics. War. Anger. Fear.  
Our friend died from the ravages of lung cancer. This horrific infection that consumes everything in its path. When discovered, it was too far along. Treatments offered little hope. He only had a few months before this moment. 

More than ever, I am questioning everything. What am I doing? Why?   

What I love to do is shelved in favor of what I am required to do – to make money.
I wait and hope that I will have more time later.    
In the blink of an eye, it’s gone.

A new commitment to make the time in my life to honor and cherish that which brings me joy, peace, hope and a sense of purpose. That’s the message from which I come out of this weekend. Don’t wait. Just don’t wait. Make it happen now.    

The Rio Olympics play in the background of our evenings now. Those Olympians from all around the world echo the message. Do it now. Grab hold of your dream and allow your mind to free itself from its constraints. Make time. Focus. Push through to that next lap, that next jump, that flip and that spin. If you fall, get back up and try it again. Don’t ever give up. Now is the time. No waiting. No regrets