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

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?

Freedom from Fear

Independence. Freedom. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  
Do we even fully understand the concept and the gift we have received from both our forefathers and the men and women of our armed forces who continue to fight for that right?
We are not the only free country. We are one of the biggest and the beacon for others to follow, but we are not the only one that is free.
Nor are we the best free country. Some suggest we are the best country in the world.  
When I travel to other parts of the world and encounter freedoms there, I wonder at the assumption some make in America that ours is the best kind of freedom, the only kind of freedom for which fighting is worthwhile.  
And there are those fighting against our freedom. They want to snatch it away from any society that practices freedom, independence, autonomy from dictatorships. These powers want to invalidate the security of anyone living a life of freedom. Terror seeks to destroy any vestige of calm and peace one might find in the home sweet home of the United States of America or any other free country. 
On this Fourth of July weekend, we are assaulted by images in the media, of terror run rampant in other parts of the world. Places where we presume freedom does not exist. Places where fear and insecurity are the norm. It is in these places that we accept that this is part of daily life. But here, in America, we are not accustomed yet to the idea of a cafe being shot up by a gunman. We have not yet witnessed hostages in an every day life setting. Aside from the San Bernardino and Orlando shootings that occurred within the last year. And for those, we have a base understanding that those were different somehow. The men who directed those acts were a bit mentally unstable, after all. So, it’s different, right? Or is it?  
On The Kelly File- a show that runs each night on the Fox Network, two nights ago Megyn Kelly facilitated a town hall like gathering of people, including some of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. These folks were gathered to discuss terror in general as well as their own personal experiences with terror. When I tuned in, they were in the midst of discussing the recent Ataturk Airport Terrorist Act in Istanbul that claimed over 40 lives; it happened less than a week ago. There was an intense caution that we were now a country on alert as the director of the CIA issued warnings about the risk of an attack now on the homeland. This threat to America is evolving. Megyn cuts over to Trace Gallagher, a FOX News Correspondent- to hear a latest report on an audio recording that had been uncovered from ISIS which called on attacks on the West during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in early June and ends July 5th. 
With the recent spate of violence and especially those done in allegiance to ISIS, one has to wonder if there will be targets in the U.S. over the 4th of July holiday weekend.    
The truth is that there have been so many terroristic incidents in our country already. But just like the school shootings, our society has an ability to rebound and keep moving forward. We carry a resilience that helps us forget too soon – the violence. Until another crops up and another speech from the president reminds us that once again, violence has rung out, Iives have been lost, hope is faltering. 
Perhaps the issue is two and maybe even three fold. 1) Fear. 2) Concern over political correctness- and intent on not profiling, of not breeding hatred, of having a positive attitude and 3) a lack of understanding on the part of the west of the cultural and depth (thousands of years of history) of the hatred which exists within a population that is attracted to and becomes sucked into the threat itself: muslim extremism.   
How can the West even begin to consider a remedy to a situation for which they do not have a proper historical context or depth of understanding – of what it at the root, what has bred this hatred in the first place.   
I once sat in on a discussion regarding the overwhelming history of a people that goes back to biblical times- these tribes that hated each other from the very beginning. Sunni. Shiite. History is unclear to me- and I recognize that in order to have even an inkling of what is going on in this world of ours, I must learn all I can. How else will I have any proper insight into participating in the legal and political system as an informed citizen? Most people, I believe, vote based on popularity. It’s like a reality TV show- not a life and death consequence and responsibility.  
These tribes have hated one another for centuries, and they continue to hate each other now.

While I listen to the news and have paid attention for years, I still do not have a proper understanding of the basis of the rage and hatred and the perspective of this population that wants the west eradicated. They want to infiltrate and bring down the west.   

The idea of not profiling a population that wants to bring something called Sharia Law into the west and overtake the west with their way of life. Most people that I interact with have not paid any attention to the language that surrounds the conflict in the Middle East. Words like “Sharia Law” or “Caliphate”. They don’t mean much to most people, because most people have not been paying attention. Buried heads in the sand. Look the other way. Ignore. Think about other things. Focus on happy thoughts.  
“I have stopped watching the news” I hear from one friend. “It’s too depressing”.
It’s as if they are saying: if I ignore all of this, maybe it will just go away. And if it doesn’t go away, well…  I can’t do anything about it anyway, so what’s the use.

Back to the Kelly File, I hear one man in the audience suggest that the perpetrator of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shoot-up was a misogynistic man who also hated gay people. Megan cuts in and asks:  but is that not the characteristic of most terrorists: women hating, gay hating, western society hating men who are intent on destroying anyone who is not the same as them; are they not all mentally unstable? (my words not hers but the general idea of her thread).  
Another woman in the audience gets angry and suggests that the man in the back row has hijacked the conversation, has redirected the conversation from terrorism to domestic violence; the man has belittled the issue of terrorism and coined it domestic violence and in so doing, has made the issue smaller than it is.   
As an audience member on her couch, I wonder. What can be done? Anything? Are we to simply watch our world unravel and witness the destruction of civilization?

Freedom. It’s worth fighting for, at the very least, it’s worth paying attention to the signs of it’s destruction around the world. It’s vital to not ignore the mortal wounds to independence. Whether our country’s or any western country’s grasp of it.   
If you are diagnosed with an early stage cancer, do you ignore it and hope it will go away? Or, do you do everything in your power to eradicate it before it metastasizes? The word metastasis has already been used in the news to describe ISIS and the cells which have spread throughout the world. Is it too late? Has the cancer grown beyond the possibility of a cure. Is there no hope of remission?  
Independence Day. I hope for a day when we can once again fly our flag with confidence in freedom, security, peace and happiness- a happiness that is not overshadowed by fear