Friday, May 28, 2010

Kinda Sorta Lost

Home again. I wasn't intending to be gone for so long, but I got lost. Kinda Sorta Lost.

The morning's list was quite clear: go to Curves, walk, clean master bath and bedroom, start laundry, go to grocery store and then the arboretum to pick up my phone right where I left it at the end of my volunteer shift in the bookstore yesterday. All that progressed smoothly, but then I made a wrong turn, quite literally.

Last evening I asked Bruce to load the guest room chair into my car, for my plan was to take it to a charming store in a little town that has become a favorite of ours. The store's owner creates slipcovers from vintage fabrics, and I decided that would be a great way to use some of the 40's and 50's tablecloths from my large collection. (See my Feb. 15, 2010 post.) Off I went, not consulting a map, for I was sure I knew the way, even though I wasn't taking the usual route. Various farmhouses looked familiar, and I remembered being on the route more than once, but when I approached the town of Oregon, instead of Verona, I knew I had made a wrong turn somewhere. I should have turned right onto M, instead of left. Oh well, I can get there from here, I told myself.

I got out a map and was grateful I know how to read maps, thanks to my Dad. The summer before my 6th grade year my family drove from our home in Mankato, MN, to Rapid City, South Dakota, to visit friends and to see the sights along the way -- the Badlands and Wall Drug and Mt Rushmore. Before Dad turned on the ignition, he passed the map to me, sitting behind him in the back seat and said, "Get us there." At least that is the way I remember it. I know he knew how to get us there without any help from me, but I became the Chief Navigator for that trip. Not only did I acquire a valuable skill, but my self-confidence grew. By learning how to get there from here, he nudged me towards independence and the ability to take care of myself.

Ok, all I needed to do was continue on MM to CC and take a right and that would take me right into Paoli, but somehow I missed Paoli --yes, it is that small--and found myself no longer on CC, but now on D and I was going more south than west and I wanted to be going west, and I had been driving more than the 3 miles indicated on the map. I could have pulled into the nearest farm driveway to consult the map again or I could have used my map app on my iPhone or I could have turned around and retraced my steps, but I continued onward. I knew eventually I would get somewhere and then I would know where I was. I felt myself relax into the beauties of the day. After all, I had a full tank of gas, a cold Diet Coke, a fresh bag of red licorice, my phone, and most of all I had time--and a willingness to be kinda sorta lost.

I rolled down my windows and opened the sunroof and exchanged the music of Hayden and Bach for the symphony of windsong, conducted by gracefully bending tree branches. I passed stately farmhouses with wide porches and wondered what it would be like to live there. I prayed the people there were happy and content. I waved to a woman wearing a straw hat, working in her garden, and I prayed for a good growing season. I spotted hawks--one, two, three--and my heart soared with them, reminding myself to remember the bigger view when I become attached to one route. I slowed down as I approached a biker who had stopped and raised his binoculars. What was he seeing that I was missing? I glanced at the empty passenger seat and thought about the many in my life who would be excellent companions on this ramble. I recalled other relaxed days of wandering, grateful that is something Bruce and I do best. What a luxurious life I have.

Eventually, I found the desired destination, and the trip home after dropping off the chair was without detours, planned or unplanned. Now what? Well, I could do this or I could do that or that or that, but instead I felt like wandering a bit more. Wandering with words. I decided to write a new post for this blog, but I had no idea what my topic would be. That has been happening lately--the desire to write drives the topic rather than the topic leading the way. Sometimes I get kinda sorta lost as I attempt to find my way, but I go along for the ride, anticipating new sights and new ways to get to my destination. Kinda Sorta.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A New List

I am a list-making diva. I love making lists. My iPhone "Notes" section is full of lists. Of course, there are the usual "DO" and "GET" lists, which I am constantly updating. In fact, on today's DO list, is a trip to Target. Fortunately, my "GET" list is ready for action. When we first moved into this house I had a lengthy House List in which I detailed room by room everything that needed to be done or purchased, and I am happy to report that list has shrunk significantly. I can't wait for the contracted exterior painting to be done, in order to scratch that big item off the list. I have lists of what I have read going back decades and lists of what I would like to read. That's a list that will never be completed. Lists of restaurants to try and places to visit, blogs to read, stores to check-out, antiques to find, and wines to try. I have lists of goals and writing ideas and even places where I would like to go and write for a few hours. Well, you get the idea.

When our children were growing up, we always made summer lists of places to go and things we wanted to do as a family. Some years, due to money or schedules, we couldn't go on a family vacation, but thanks to the list posted in the kitchen we were never at a loss for fun times. For example, we all remember fondly, "B Day," a day dedicated to bakeries, bookstores, and the newly-released Batman movie. A favorite memory.

This summer will be one of treasured memories as well, for Bruce and I are renting a cottage for a month in Door County--one of the top places on our Favorite Places in the World" list, and it will come as no surprise that I have started a new list,"Things to Take to Door County:" sheets for twin beds, 4th of July flags, extra towels, summer recipe folder, beach chairs and umbrella, cooler, insect repellent and suntan lotion, bike. Along with this list, which seems to grow in my sleep, there is the complementary list, "Things to Do Before Door County," which includes cancelling papers and mail delivery, asking Jack to mow the lawn and water plants, and cleaning the refrigerator. Both lists undoubtedly will grow as the departure date approaches.
I find, however, my mind is wandering to anther list--a list of what I want to do during that month in Door County. I allow my mind and my heart to imagine a month of summer days stretching in front of me. What am I yearning for? What is my heart's desire for that time? That list is very simple.

Eat well.
I look forward to the week that part of the family will be with us. Our granddaughter and I have been talking about going to our favorite ice cream shop, and I know there will be at least one miniature golf game in store for us. How fun it will be to take our two year old grandson to the beach, and I am sure we will go to special shops and restaurants and maybe take the ferry to Washington Island. Bruce will be there that week, too, and then for long weekends, and we will enjoy seeing friends who live there or who will come for a day or two, but much of the time I will be there by myself. I won't have the tugs of hometending and entertaining and scheduling and answering emails. Will I listen to my heart and let the day unfold? Will I let the water's waves soothe and quiet me? Will I allow the silence of the sun and the gaze of the moon to guide and teach me? Will I honor the wisdom that awaits within? Will my simple list--walk, bike, meditate, pray, eat well, read, write, sleep--become my mantra? I can hardly wait to find out.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sitting in the Mama Chair

I was restless. A good friend had gone home after spending a day and a half here. We had our usual good time of exploring shops and lingering over meals to continue open-ended conversations. With the house in order and no MUST DO NOW items on my list, I decided to give myself an afternoon off. I gathered a pile of books and my journal and stationed myself on the sunny deck, but it was too warm out there. I moved to the front porch, but it was too cold there. I felt like Goldilocks. Eventually, I got comfortable in the Mama Chair in the living room. Just right, except for that restlessness.

Should I take a nap? Write in my journal? Do some centering prayer? Read? If so, which one of these books tempts me most? I paged through each book, attempting to land on a new shoreline. I read a chapter here and a chapter or two there. I wrote some quotes in my journal. I grazed my way through the afternoon, continuing to feel restless. In fact, I was certain I would later think "I should have done x, y, z." Aside: Something I didn't do --straighten the lampshade before taking the picture. Sigh

I have a friend who reminds me occasionally of all the time I have. Time? What time? I always feel busy, always have one more thing I need to do, want to do. I take her comment as a criticism and as a value judgment. Busy is good. Busy is more. Busy is the norm, the accepted. Busy is the work ethic. Busy is making a contribution. Busy is being productive. Busy is visible. Busy is doing. I buy into that easily, but apparently I am now retired, so what does busy mean in this context?

Several months after my mother died, I went to an intuitive for a reading and she not only gave me amazing and comforting information about my mother, but she also had some words from my Grandmother Hansen, a farm wife extraordinaire, who died many years ago. Her advice was to "stop swatting flies." I wasn't sure what she meant. Was I to overlook small irritations? Not a bad idea. I mentioned the phrase to my father, and he told me she had often said, "If you don't think there is anything more to do, you can always swat flies." In other words, stay busy. There is always something TO DO. But here she was, instructing me to stop doing and start being. What does that mean exactly?

My afternoon of grazing netted two helpful quotations:

Today I am happy to find myself sitting on the ground wanting nothing to do--no, not even wanting it, simply accepting that I am enveloped in nothing to do. I begin to understand how nothing to do is its own state of grace, difficult to find deliberately, nearly impossible to recognize. Nothing to do means I can sit and look and let my mind wander, then empty, then fill again, with wonder or with grief, with anything or with nothing at all. "Nothing to do" is not the same as "nothing can be done." One is hopeless; the other, the place from which hope becomes possible. From Slow Love How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas and Found Happiness by Dominique Browning

We may find it useful to inquire into our own thermostat. What if we take a moment and reflect on our life: How do we know, for example, when we have done enough work for this day? Is it when we collapse from complete exhaustion, however late at night? Or when the clock strikes a particular hour? Is it when we finish replying to all the emails in our inbox? How do we know when we have taken on too many projects? Is it when we get sick--or when so many mistakes start happening, each piling one upon the other, so that our life and work seem to just freeze up, paralyzed, unable to go on any further? What teaches us when to speed up, when to slow down, when to stop? From A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller

While I know what it means to "DO," I am not sure what it means to BE," even though I am always talking about being present and that I am a human being and not a human doing, but what that means remains unclear to me. My only plan at this point is to sit in the Mama Chair more often and let my heart graze and gaze. Perhaps that is enough.

FYI: The Books in the Pile
The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende (memoir)
Claiming Ground, A Memoir by Laura Bell (cattle rancher, forest ranger, outfitter, masseuse, wife and mother in Wyoming.
Slow Love by Dominique Browning (Memoir mentioned above. Browning is former editor of House and Garden)

Intimacy and Solitude, Balancing Closeness and Independence by Stephanie Dowrick (On my shelf for a long time. Perhaps this is the time.)

The Circumference of Home, One Man's Yearlong Quest For a Radically Local Life by Kurt Hoelting ("part quest and part guidebook for change")

Open Mind, Open Heart, The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel by Thomas Keating (Have read before, but want to read again because it is the definitive book on centering prayer)

A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller (The title says it all!)

Women, Food and God, An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth (This title says it all, too.)

The Journal Keeper, A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux (Why didn't I write this book?)