Wild Fires

The loggers stopped at my aunt and uncle’s logging supply shop early in the morning to pick-up hard hats. They were driving north to help fight the fires, drawing lines around the burned Collier State Park, and trying to stop the flames from burning up the logging museum.

Crackle. Burn. Feel the heat. Breathe in the smoke. No way to stop, sometimes. Let it burn.

Other times – there are ways to stop. Dig the lines. Fly overhead for a vantage to drop the magic alchemy to quell the flames. We all try, to fight our fires.

Courtesy of Mom, image from September 2020

Always

Sometimes they are the phoenix, for us. Sometimes they are a complete loss. Sometimes they are heartbreaking. Sometimes they burn out. Sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes they can be controlled. Sometimes, they can’t. Sometimes they are needed. Sometimes, they aren’t. Sometimes they burst. Sometimes they hurt. Sometimes they heal.

Sometimes they are just as they are. Each fire needing a different approach based on conditions, terrain, history, climate, potential, the day, the moment, the years past, the years to come.

We fight our fires, and those of others.

Thank you, firefighters.

Thank you.

Flag Day

Waking up this morning I made some coffee, tuned the kitchen radio to NPR, and began assembling the pink and green Indian fabric to sew as binding onto the quilt.

“Live from NPR news…in southern California hundreds have turned out to protest in the name of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree near City Hall in Palm Dale on Wednesday.”

No. No. No. This is not ok. I know none of this is ok or has been ok – I feel it – but this is what tears me right now. The image of a black man hanging from a tree, just yesterday.

I hear the words “suicide,” “lynching,” “no autopsy,” “hate crime.” It is unknown whether it is a suicide or a murder.

The news goes on to talk about an autonomous neighborhood in Seattle that the police evacuated, the shooting of another black man in Atlanta, the budget cuts to universities due to the corona virus, and the Oregon governor presenting a virtual graduation speech. I thought her words would inspire, but she called to graduates about the change that needs to happen in the world. As if they are our only hope now, and all this is their inheritance.

I go out to a park, but everything is too busy. There is a car with an out-of-state license driving too close to me, and I feel angry. He passes me, disobeying a traffic law.

I pull over into the nearest parking lot, a Mexican restaurant, and cry. I’m so mad. I’m so mad. Where did this thinking and feeling start today?

With that image this morning. That image of grief and hate, and a life gone, hanging from a tree.

Collecting myself, I unexpectedly turn off into Barnes & Noble to get a journal. I stand in the aisles, feeling lost. Not know what to get, what not to get, to leave, to stay.

I take a book, and a journal, and stand in line.

The woman in front of me in line walks to the cashier. She has on a mask, and a soft southern accent with a stiff and frail and aging body.

“Do you have plans for the rest of the day?” the cashier asks, a new book resting between the two women.

“I worked the early shift, so I am going to get some food and go home… and read.”

Somehow – somehow – witnessing this interaction helps. It is Simple. Real. Kind. Human.

I walk into the grocery store next, waiting behind a mother and son so as not to get too close, and notice the groups of flowers next to me. Big, gorgeous, pink roses – $15 for a dozen.

Before cashing out, I return for a bundle.

The cashier is a young man with tattoos, a handkerchief hanging below his nose, and a tired voice.

“How are you today?” he asks.

“Hanging in there,” I said (only now, as I write this, do I see that word). “How are you doing?”

“About the same.”

He bags the items, the pink roses go in last. I yank one, hoping it gives easily from the banded bunch, and it does.

I hold the big, pink, aromatic rose to him.

“Here you go,” I say. “Thank you for your work.”

I feel an out-breath or a smile or surprise behind his mask, and everything lightens again – for a moment.

And these moments add up, right? That’s where change actually happens – in a moment.

Construction

A first house that I bought, three months before the word “pandemic” became official, is snuggled into a street filled with 1980 ranch-style homes. It is one of the first streets on the east side of Bend, now surrounded by new subdivisions and a park, which used to be a nursery for pine trees managed by the Forest Service.

Drive half a mile down the street, and there are still barns and horses and goats and tractors on the road. Thank goodness for that.

There is also construction. Both ends of the street are being turned into two-lane roundabouts to help manage traffic. The large machines vibrate in constant rhythm between 8 am – 5 pm, but ceases on the evenings and weekends.

I go for walks in the evening during this quiet to the former nursery, and pass through the zones of construction and the closed sidewalks. Over the dirt tire treks and stilled orange machinery, paused in repose and stillness.

Looking into the pits of where there will be sewers, I see below the Earth into the layers of large rocks. I had no idea.

It changes each day, what is happening, but for now I can stand in the middle of the soon-to-be-made roundabout, now a layer of flat gravel above strata of rock thousands of years old, holding us up, looking at the mountain view, with nothing at all moving around me other than the clouds above.

It reminds me of the times when I was young, going to the construction site with my parents when they were building the house. All the space between the bones to see the trees and the sky and such a breath of foundation.

It is the making. The silence, the quiet, the stillness, before we all start going in circles again.

 

On Being Human

My thinking has been hard on myself lately: Looking unsuccessfully for a job, living at my parents, grateful for what I have yet still wishing it could be different. Thinking that I am not good at the practicalities of being human.

In my less compassionate moments I get lost in thinking “I can always do something better, to be better.”

Then, I start noticing how I am human. I eat (sometimes too much), I cry (sometimes too much), I sleep (sometimes too much), I love (sometimes too much), I try (sometimes too much). I laugh and swear when I hit my funny bone, I check my facebook page more than appropriate, I get rejected, I don’t get everything done on my mental to-do list, my plans don’t work out, I keep living, I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.

Wait a tick…

I am so good at being human. I am SO good at being human.

 

I do my best with what I have and who I am at any given moment.

We all do.

We are SO good at being human. Our existence is enough.

 


 

 

We Always Become

I recently discovered that I am the woman of my dreams; that I am my own outcome. What a relief, for me and everyone else involved, too.

I invite you to tally your day and make a list of how you are the man/woman of your dreams. Just today. Only include the things you did, or thought, or noticed – not the things you didn’t. You can forgive those ‘what ifs’ or those ‘should haves’ to simply being human. I promise you. The day could not have gone any other way than how it did.

So, tally up.

Here is how I was the woman of my dreams today:

 

I saw a movie with my mother. We shared popcorn, and a smile.

I wrote a kick-ass cover letter for a job application – straight from the heart.

I sang loudly in my car.*

I cried inside my open heart.

I took a walk along the river and paused: to watch without expecting to see. I bore witness to ducks chortling, and the sky changing.

The kick-ass cover letter I wrote was lost somewhere in Word, and I messed up the online application so I am locked out from applying for a dream job. I acknowledged that I am doing the best that I can. And that I will continue to, trusting that what comes back is exactly what needs to. Thank you.

I have my 12-gauge shotgun (Amelia), my yoga mat, and a pink hand-knit sweater in the backseat of my car.

In meditation, I felt that I am enough, right now. That despite popular opinion, there is nothing else to achieve, because then there would always be more (which is less).

I heard raw guitar, and saw hair dance, at my first metal show. I danced, and stomped (I’m not sure that is metal-dancing-etiquette), and felt soul. I felt how we are still one.

 

Bow-bom-wow.

 

This moment is the outcome. How full and how perfect –

 

yes, and thank you.

 

 

*(See Gaslight Anthem, 1,000 Years; or really the entire Get Hurt album)

“A Place in the Universe, At a Moment in Time”

Not far from my parents’ house, there is a bench overlooking the river. I have passed by it for a lifetime, taking little notice.

Until, on a whim, I stop and sit. The green willows shudder into a moving painting, there is the sky, a duck laughs loudly at something, somewhere.

I turn around and read the plaque, like one that is on so many benches.

“A Place in the Universe, At a Moment in Time. L and L Read.”

And this is the view. It was maybe a space of pause for a couple during evening walks, or perhaps it was the favorite spot of someone who died, or maybe one day something big happened here, or not.

But – looking at the view – I knew it to be true.

A place in the universe, at a moment in time. That is the only thing that is real. It connects us all, beautifully and effortlessly.

 

A place in the universe

At a moment in time

‘About Today’

Today you were far away.

The evening was warm. Weathermen threatened thunder and storms, but the sky was partly cloudy and let the sun through for the show.

The National was playing at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, in Bend. I gathered with friends to drink wine and beer and whisky, and listen to the voice that melts us.

What could I say.

Honkers flew above the stage. The sun set in pinks and the night slowly poured over.

Tonight you just close your eyes.

The heart broke open, as it often does on a daily basis. The singer hunched over the microphone after swigging from a bottle. A light glinted off his glasses, broken strings of a violin bow swayed in the breeze, strangers moved together: today.

Hey, are you awake

Yeah I’m right here

Well, can I ask you about today?

 

 

(See About Today, The National)

 

Ancient Meditations

I stand outside the Great Pyramid of Giza. The ancient blocks are taller than I, their surfaces perfectly hewn from weather and time, stacked on each other for support. The breeze cools part of the dry heat away, violently blowing hair across our faces.

Someone tells me to enter the pyramid. I do. Inside is ancient darkness, a sacredness, a stifling heat that sucks out the freshness of the world. I walk in darker, deeper, into the core.

There is a holed tomb, or according to the guided meditation today, a fountain in the shape of the Sphinx. I can hear the water drip on the rock, and am told that this is the pool of truth.

I am asked to find a question, a deep question, and pose it to the pool. “How do I grow up with kindness?” is what I ask. Not what is this pain, or is this worry worth worrying about, or am I worthy – all questions that plague me. But no, for some reason I ask “How do I grow up with kindness?” Although, I am 30. I “should be” grown up by now.

But we never stop growing. Just like life – there is no end goal. There is no destination of “grown up.”

The pool told me to give, and to trust.

I am instructed to walk into another chamber, filled with light, and open my eyes to the sand and the camels walking on the horizon.

I sat on a camel, one tattooed and chapped, as someone guides us around the shape of the pyramid. My father sat on one too, and my mother smiled at us.

The Pyramids, and a camel, during a family trip to Egypt in 2008

India?

I am basically writing this blog post just so I can get through to my next activity on this beautiful day: sitting outside and reading.

So, let’s get to it.

 

They say that writing is about showing up. Showing up for your job, and being receptive to whatever may come along. Some days nothing comes and you just write, some days it is a struggle (like today because I just want to go read), but some days something magical happens – you write the world into a new way of seeing, from a force greater than yourself.

But, that is not today. Instead of sitting down and writing this morning as usual, I fantasized about going to India and did some of the dishes and answered not enough emails and took things to the Equality House for a garage sale to support freedom in Uganda.

Now I sit, writing an uncategorized post. And now, I’m going to go outside to read the world into a new way of seeing.

Tallyho, my friends. Tallyho.

Haar

It’s softly dropping mist this evening in Topeka, after a previous night of thunderstorms. The rolling cracks woke me in the early morning just enough to feel a little fear, and beauty, and mumble “it’s thunder baby.” He pulls me closer because he knows I’m afraid.

In Oregon, I love thunderstorms. The heat, the warm rain, the thunder, the lighting that strikes in a high desert sky. Here, I am afraid. I don’t know yet what is a thunderstorm and what is calling for a tornado.

But this evening, it is calm. Like a haar. Living on a medieval coast of Scotland my first year of college, my Scottish friend told me the thick bank of coastal fog was called a haar. We all giggled and wrapped our foreign lips around the noise coming out of our mouths: Haaaaarrrr. Like a pirate.

The Harr was thick and calming. Encompassing and safe. It was soft. Kind of like it is tonight in Topeka.