The  Newly Formed Crater In My Back

It started with a slight tickle. Then, an itch. Followed by a true bother. Half distracted by a conversation with my dog, letting her know what a sweetheart I thought she was, I reach back towards my right shoulder blade, my fingers stretching out towards the left side of my right bra strap. I swish my fingers around using them as a brush to blindly identify the culprit. That’s when I felt it… a ball of some sort that began to move and then I swatted at it, again blindly, trying to get rid of it… all the while screeching and jumping and then thump. I heard it hit the carpet. Looking I could not see where it had ended up. I rushed to the bathroom, pulling off my nightgown then turned so that my back faced the vanity mirror. There it was – an angry red back shoulder with a small bumpy flesh mound at its center. It must have been a fully fed tick.  

A bulbous parasite that had been clinging to my back for … how long? The recollection of its size by feel only, suggests it was big and the sound of it dropping to the carpet confirmed that- yes, big. Big is good because generally the more dangerous ticks are tiny, right? Yes. I believe so. Big is better than tiny.

And then a follow up thought.

One is meant to carefully remove the tick, not yank it out. Yanking it out could have adverse consequences. Infection. Disease. These thoughts race through my mind. I must find the bugger… I must find him or her. Her is worse than him. If it’s a her- more likely to dispense disease. And, if I can find her or him, well then I might be able to identify the type and that can make the difference between a bother and a real quandary.  

So back on my hands and knees I go, scurrying around the perimeter of the bed attempting to find the possible tick. On the Ivory Berber carpet, it should not be that hard to locate the insect. And sure enough, within less than a minute I find a Sunflower seed shape that is a bit more ballooned in size than most Sunflowers. It’s about a 1/4 of an inch in size total- counting the full bulb. The insect itself is actually quite tiny- tiny little legs and moving head. Hopefully, all its parts are with it and none still in my back. I retrieve a jar and relocate the bug on the carpet and then sweep it into the jar using the lid as an instrument of help. Jar sealed with a tight twist- it’s not going anywhere now. The tick begins its mobile exploration of the bottom of the jar, with the large bulb atop its body.   

And, I go to work on Google.  

All kinds of searches follow. In hindsight, I realize I have had the itch for a while. I just can’t remember how long. The internet helps me out with time frame because it shows the size of ticks as they grow. The size of mine suggests days- maybe almost a week. How is this possible? I have showered every day. I have toweled off every day. I have put clothes on and have taken them off. I have slept on my back, rolled to the side and back again. Again, how on Earth could that tick have hitchhiked its way onto my body for days and days without notice? It’s creepy and freaky all at the same time.

And then, there are the questions: Deer Tick or Wood Tick? Looking at internet pictures, it’s hard to tell at the stage this bug is in. Some deer ticks cover themselves up entirely of a gray brown bulb once having accomplished an almost weeklong feed. While some show the copper color body- others do not as they are covered in the bubble from the sucking of blood for days on end. All of this has me completely grossed out and frazzled.

I call the pharmacy, do I need to get seen right away? Can it wait?

After describing the insect, the pharmacist surmises it is likely an ordinary wood tick, and generally those are harmless. Tomorrow will be fine. I should go in just to be safe. It is possible they will put me on a course of antibiotics. Bring the tick with you.   

So, it’s back to the bedroom- new nighty and a quick wash of my back which I receive from my mother. And I wonder, if I had been living alone, I would have had no one to help me tend the newly formed crater on my back. A sad thought. Glad I am not yet in that predicament.

I recheck my dog for ticks, maybe she brought this enemy to me. More likely, I just got it from the trees outside. There are lots of ticks in these Minnesota woods. Sofie is fine- I apply her flea and tick preventative which was only a few days overdue.

As I lay in bed, I have weird itchy sensations in other parts of my body. I had done a thorough check but can’t quite bat away the gnawing tickles that now randomly make themselves known on my hip, in the small of my back, around my earlobe. Images of wavy legs and a mouth that wants to pierce my skin and hang on begin to form in my mind.  

It will be difficult to sleep. I have a long night ahead.

Hump Day Rabbit Hole

As I allow my mind to snap back a few months, a disturbing gnarl of bother settles into my gut. It’s been a tiring few weeks. It brings me back ten years, to a time when I felt that as a worker, as a widget used by the owners of a company to produce results, I was whipped and cracked. Not much has changed. I can remember back then feeling as if management were dog mushers, and I was the dog. The intensity with which I attempted to keep up with my pack and pull the heavy load remains with me today. Just a different pack, and a different musher. But basically same track, same destinations. And for the most part, it has felt that those around me have basically no clue at the break neck speed with which I attempt to run the race, at times avoiding any breaks (bathroom, food, water) in order to get to the finish line faster. How many tasks can I wrap up in one day and still deliver an exceptional product? That’s the trial. That’s the run. And, that’s my burden.

Of course I know intellectually that doing this kind of race without nourishment (body, mind and soul) will only result in a crash. There will be a time when my energy and stamina can’t take it. And in the meantime, I must pay close attention to that heaviness in my chest- the one that seems to live behind my breastbone. It really just lives there- this push, this ache that never seems to go away.

I have gone to the doctor about it and the doctor has done tests and then, the doctor has said it’s nothing. So, I can’t very well go back in and say it’s still there because essentially I have been told it’s not there, it’s just not. There. Not there. So, why can I feel it?

Women of middle age, overweight- have different symptoms for heart attacks. I read that the symptoms can be similar to heart burn. Well that sucks because I basically have heart burn all the time … I manage it with Tums. And Prilosec. And, I just keep plugging along. Sometimes, the heart burn feels different- like a pulling of flesh and sinew behind the breastbone – an annoying reminder that there is something there. Angst? Stress? But that’s it? Perhaps.

There is a lot of joy in what I do. I do enjoy some satisfaction along with a feeling of accomplishment which pours over me when I get those emails that say that the trip went off without a hitch and that the multiple stops on the trip throughout the UK and Scandinavia (for example) were all marvelous, lodging perfect, ground transport on time and guides charming, kind and so informative. It’s a great feeling. A small 1-2 sentence paragraph is all I need to propel myself further forward on to the next itinerary. These accolades; however, do not stop the overwhelming stress that accompanies me each and every day as I head into work.

As I face my desk at work, I sink into a pile of folders for a voluminous host of travelers going everywhere from Alaska, to Greece, to Hiroshima and Huntsville, Alabama. At times, in the middle of a complex booking with payments and vendor requests, I must drop everything and push all folders aside (more specifically, pile them all up and shove them into a drawer that may have some space)- make room and clean up fast as there is a person at the front desk who needs help with an air ticket. On my screen, the cursor waits for me to finalize the payment and if I don’t finish it- it will time out. But walk in traffic is a part of the business – so exit that screen, shove everything aside because someone needs an air ticket to Hawaii- right this second.

There are so many new requests – and thankfully lately these have mostly been repeats and referrals- combined with equally as many confirmed bookings that demand follow up tasks- many of which are critical to the success of the trip. And then there is also the recent administrative push to update our marketing database to ensure we have a full picture of who has done business with us in the past and what those folks may wish to hear about for future trips. There are the much belated trip reports which I have yet to finish from the last few months.

I feel as if I have been pulled down a rabbit hole and that I ended up in a maze of tunnels for which I have no idea where I might find the exit.

Escape is futile.

This is your reality.

My writing has been put on a brief sabbatical. Partly because in the very tiny pinch of off-time that I have these days, I sit down at my new keyboard to plunk away at old classical tunes from childhood. A few Sonatas, a handful of Adagios, some lilts of musical lace which cover me up in moments of bliss.

Last night when I arrived home, I walked in the door and put on an apron. Mom was having a dinner party. All the trimmings and all the courses. The guests would arrive in just about 2 minutes. Do I have time to pee? I rush downstairs, take care of business, run a comb through my hair and freshen my makeup. I come back up and they are already arriving in the hallway. Mom has been working on dinner all day and I can see she is fried. I will be hostess, drinks anyone? I go to the kitchen and the food is almost ready. I urge Mom to go into the living room to entertain her company while I finish cooking the food. I hear them chattering over wine and Brie and smoked salmon. About a half hour later, the food is ready for plating. I quickly fill glasses with ice water, light the candles and encourage them all to move to the dining room, where Mom has set a beautiful table. Tonight we are serving from the kitchen- plating the food for the guests- no passing of serving dishes tonight- an executive decision! The beef was tender, the noodles perfect. Oh my god! There is a smell- it’s the bread. Mom had placed croissants in the oven and I had not noticed. They are very crispy but not burned. I acknowledge the over-done croissants to the guests and recommend we skip it. No, no- we must have the croissants. So, I leave the table and gather the croissants into a basket with liner napkin and pass the bread. “Very crispy” says one guest. Ya, you think? I am sweating, exhausted and out of breath at this point. But we press on. Light dinner conversation. Then, it’s bus the table of the dinner plates and corresponding accoutrements, and make the coffee, cut the lemon cake and serve some more. Mom and Dad enjoy the break and entertain their guests. Finally- I pull emptied dessert plates and offer more coffee. No takers. It’s getting pretty late for a Tuesday night- my Mom offers me an out- ‘go down, honey- you have an early morning’. Indeed, I do. I wave to the guests- goodnight, great to see you- until next time. And, I take my leave.
The truth is, Mom entertained her whole adult life. Parties were her thing. Cooking culinary masterpieces and offering a full blown hospitality cornucopia is her speciality. Why should that change as she approaches 80? I only wish she would give me some warning – more than a couple of hours, so that I could brace myself for the second evening job that follows my full time job and two hour round trip commute: evening food server and host. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay I suppose for their enjoyment and happiness and – a feeling of continued full throttle involvement with society.

After that tiring evening, I woke this morning at 4:40am and couldn’t sleep. So, I pulled myself out of bed and rolled through my normal morning routine. Except this time I was out the door by 5:30am instead of 6:50am – heading towards the freeway and into work. I stopped at a local coffee house with my tote bag in tow. Time to write.

People have been asking about my novel. It’s on a short hiatus. Taking my head out of the narrative and characters could help me when I return to it once again; a fresh perspective.

As I write this, I wonder whether I should post it. It’s too much of a dear diary entry. Which on reflection, a lot of my posts are- diary entries. A hodgepodge of conversations with myself on my current – at the moment – state of affairs. And perhaps these are of interest to others. It’s what connects us, I suppose. Reading how other people’s lives unfold – well, it interests me. So maybe- this drivel will interest others?   Maybe?

For the most part, these writings are the way that I organize the chaos that exists in my head. And with several weeks absence, it’s a bit of a loose snake slithering here and there- seemingly without purpose. By writing it all down, I can have a better perspective on whether the noise is legitimate or if I just need to balance the speakers of my mind. Increase the treble, decrease the base. The path becomes clearer. I evaluate and I prioritize and I find ways to discard or reorder. I receive some grounding advice from my inner wise owl.

Ah, yes. Much better now.

It’s all relative.

Time to head in to take care of that trip to Spain for the family of four that plan to travel Madrid, San Sebastián & Barcelona over the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays- complete with a day trip to Toledo and El Escorial, a walking tour with Tapas, a visit to the Prado & Bilbao Museums, trains, guides, dinner reservations- much to do

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




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

Over Commitment & Time Poor.

It feels like forever since my last post. So much going on. It’s one of those summers when I find it hard to find a moment in between commitments. There has not been any time to free write. My morning pages have gone by the way side. 

In one instant, I had no commitments other than work and home life … and then in the next moment, I find myself overcommitted. Overcommitment for me is having more than one thing to focus on besides my work and my home life. 

 Right now, I am part of a book group, an Artist’s Way Creative Group and now also a writing class. The first and last are ones I have had on a list to join for quite some time. I have put the middle one on a brief hold because of the writing class. But even so, the work that each requires for preparation makes my personal time feel a bit smooshed.

If there is one thing I don’t want to have happen is a mediocre effort at the one thing that I enjoy and which I hold most dear: My Writing Time.

My book group is taking me on literary journeys that I would otherwise not have experienced. It’s opening me up to new acquaintances. It is exposing me to some good and not so good writing. Reading offers a chance to study writing. So this is a plus. And, so far, I am greatly enjoying he process. What I had not counted on is that the book selections of 300+ pages, and in some ways, the literary density of each selection has caused me to pause and consider sentences and paragraphs more intentionally.  This has resulted in a slower reading process than I had anticipated. The current selection is The Wilderness World of John Muir- a collection of essays by author John Muir, edited by Edwin Way Teale. I have been reading the book for about a week and I am only around 70 pages into it. I have covered his boyhood in Scotland, his family’s emigration to America and settling in Wisconsin, and his young adulthood foray into invention- quite clever that Muir. I am enthralled by the language and delighted by his adventures. But it is going so slowly.   

While I read that book, I am in a writing class which is taught at a marvelous writing center in the city.  The class is called: Book In A Month.    In about six weeks time, we are to all have a first draft. I confess that since I already have my first draft, I signed up for this class to get unstuck and learn how to properly write a book. The class is really an encouraging session to help motivate us to write. I likely needed to sign up for an actual MFA Course in order to get the information I was seeking. I am a complete novice when it comes to novel writing. The truth is what I really needed to know was proper framework, the bones of the novel- the parameters. What constitutes a chapter? How do I indent? How do I break up the paragraphs? How do I move from one point of view to another smoothly? Is it ok to have multiple points of view? When should I have the various plot points show up – what are those three parts to the novel again? What am I doing? Who do I think I am?   I have a book (in fact many books) that can help me, so I am likely just fine.  It’s just that I was hoping for a more formal setting within which I could learn how to better write and propel me towards authorship one day.

What I have on the page for my novel thus far is around 55,000 words. They flew out of me in about a month during NaNoWriMo 2015. I am now at the stage where I am looking at all those words and trying to figure out how to better shape them into a bonafide novel. The real deal. Something worth reading. Something worth pitching! And, I need guidance on whether to stick with the original style of Historical Fiction and if it is prudent to keep or remove the element of murder mystery within the covers. My novel is basically macabre episode from Foyle’s War set in Norway during the Nazi occupation. Women are showing up dead on the shoreline of the Oslo Fjord- women who had disappeared from ordinary life and presumed deeply involved in the underground movement. It’s a piece of fiction- I am not aware of any such murders having actually occurred during this time period. A woman showed up in my novel during the flow of writing through NaNoWriMo 2015. She has copper curls, she is lying in a bay in the fjord, naked. The man who placed her there is struggling with his secret. Is it inappropriate to include a murder mystery within a serious topic such as the occupation of a country within a non-fiction historical context?

In my writing class, there are 19 of us. For our remaining four classes, the class size has been divided up into 4-5 people each session reading about 7 minutes worth of their novel and getting 7 minutes worth of critique. I am scheduled for two weeks from now. Perhaps during that session, I will showcase a bit of the mix in my story and see what they think. What frustrates me is that I don’t want to continue shaping my novel if I am completely off-base with my premise and development to date.
So, I procrastinate and do other things; for instance, read about John Muir. I have around 280 pages to go!

Follow Your Bliss

Have I disappointed God in my choices? I know that I have disappointed my mother. I don’t say parents because I don’t think my father has any real opinion on the topic. But I know that mother is disappointed. Mostly, she is concerned or at least that is how she offers it to me. Concern. She wants me to have the best and experience the best.  It’s my lack of church attendance that has her worried.

I get it.

As I look back on my experiences in certain company, I know that my comfort level has been way off kilter when I engage in relationships with people on a forced basis. In years past, I have spent hours of time in an effort at community through church fellowship with people based on a that shared commitment to a certain religious order. And while it is true that one of the dearest friends that I have ever enjoyed in my entire life came from that religious activity, she is the only one with whom I have had a truly authentic and deep friendship through any kind of religious organization.  Everyone else has felt surface and unsatisfying.

Guilt fills me when I open up and share this experience. Guilt because fellowship in spirit is not meant to really be for one’s own edification. It’s not meant to be about me. It’s meant to be about sharing with others, supporting others, giving to others, recognizing others, lifting others up. Being the hand of Christ to others. Being his ears to listen, his arms to hold and comfort, his eyes to see, his laughter and his encouragement and his counsel through breath and tongue and teeth as we express ourselves in love. Perhaps the reason I have been disappointed over the years is that my efforts in my quest to offer myself to others has felt like a one way street. And then, more guilt. For it is not in seeking to receive that we give.

So, instead, I walk solo most days. I have some friendships for which I have felt truly blessed. A co-worker whom I cherish beyond words and whose smile and whose life I hold very dear. I am so grateful for the growth we have experienced these past few years and look forward to many more exchanges and moments of connection with her.  Another friend whom I have enjoyed for two decades offers a connection and depth of understanding that encourages and reassures.

At this stage in my life, I need my exchanges and expenditures of time to be, for the most part, authentic. No longer can I invest time and energy into activities and responsibilities that do not support who I am at the core of my being. My exchanges with my co-worker are authentic. She helps fill a part of that hunger and need. And I hope I equally fulfill her in some way- and help her on her own path to find her way amidst the din and chaos of life.

On Sundays, these days, I feel more spiritually connected on a quiet morning with words, books, nature, my dog. I feel the blessings and I feel encouraged and energized to move into the week with a renewed commitment to offer love to my fellow man. And all of this feels like a blessing. Instead of heading into a building with hundreds of souls gathering, I find my way to a quiet place of peace. For now, this has to be acceptable. As I consider what my higher power would think of my behavior, I hope it would not involve disdain or disapproval.

These moments of quiet on Sundays have also led to moments of clarity. Inspiration. On one such day a few weeks ago, I had an urge to check on whether classes on writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis would be on offer for this coming fall. To my pleasant surprise, I found a class starting mid-July on novel writing. This six week session would be led by a published author of about forty novels, an author who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller List. While that is not necessarily my goal, the notion of finding guidance from one who has walked the road to publication and could have some valuable insights, tips and advice in general- was highly appealing. So, I signed up! And, my class starts tonight. My first official writing class. I have taken a Saturday workshop in the past, but only one workshop and that was over ten years ago. This step, this commitment, this movement towards a new reality- has me energized. It’s exciting. I know not where this might lead, but I feel it is in the right direction nevertheless.

Grateful for spiritual moments of introspection, when the noise and the busyness of the world retreats into the distant background and I find myself in front of my deepest yearnings and revelations of my purpose.

Perhaps, one day, this writing thing will be instrumental in helping another soul find his or her way to their own purpose and their own passion. It might give them the confidence to try something new, to shake themselves up and to reach for heights only imagined in childhood dreams. Those dreams that left us giddy in youth and offered moments of sparkle but for some reason got left behind or placed on a shelf in order to move in a more responsible direction, one that is walked only for the purpose of gaining approval and or to receive an acknowledgment from those that might have been serving in a role of leadership.   To what end?  What are we hoping to gain from such approvals?

One day, I hope I find myself on a cliff somewhere outside of a small cottage, sitting at a table with writing instruments before me. I hope to feel the soft wind blowing through the long tresses of my silver hair. I imagine I will be wearing a merino blend lace shawl in a color that evokes maple leaves and coco beans and gold leaf which I have knitted and wrapped around my body to chase away the chill. I see that a sweet canine with soft white and sable hair and perky little ears is curled up with her chin resting on the top of my foot. A bird soars overhead. I hear crashing waves below.  The willow tree branches on the tree next to me are swaying gently to and fro. And, I breathe. And, I smile. I have found my bliss here on this cliff, in my golden years.

Are you following your bliss?