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Archive for November, 2013

Hallelujah

There is a blaze of light in every word  It doesn’t matter which you heard  The holy or the broken Hallelujah    Hallelujah  Hallelujah  Hallelujah  Hallelujah     Leonard Cohen

I woke up yesterday morning with a song in my head.  It was there, clear and heartfelt, before I opened my eyes and rustled myself from sleep.  And it didn’t go away.  Though I don’t know most of the words, it was with me all morning as I puttered in the kitchen, as I payed the bills and folded the clothes.  It drove with me into Marquette and walked beside me, inside me as I braced myself against the wind and the blowing snow, as I waved to the surfers riding the thrashing Lake Superior waves, as I smiled at the other windblown walkers on the lakeshore bike path.  What is it about this particular song that gets under my skin and into my soul?  And why did it decide to take up residence in my psyche for the whole of a day?  Hallelujah Hallelujah.  Leonard Cohen wrote his Hallelujah song in the early eighties and it has been recorded by countless others, sung at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Games, reinterpreted just last week on the television show, The Voice.  But I wasn’t thinking about the Vancouver Olympics, and I’ve never watched The Voice, and yet there it was, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, tumbling through me, singing to me as I moved through my  day.

I’m wondering whether it is always tumbling through me, always surrounding me, this chorus of Hallelujah.  I’m wondering whether I just need to be an open enough vessel to hear it.  Because that’s what the song does for me; it softens me; it releases resistance.   If we’re in a state of resistance, how can we hear the hallelujah?  It’s more than just the words, it’s a vibration beneath the words.  “Love is not a victory march; it is a broken hallelujah.”  This song has a way of breaking me wide open.  The last time that I heard it — outside of my head, that is, piped in from the radio — was a few weeks ago in Moscow, Idaho.  My daughter-in-law, my sixteen-month-old grandson and I were spending the morning at an indoor playground, a warehouse building set up like a town for toddlers.  And Viren, immediately and for the duration, stationed himself in front of the train set, transfixed by the train’s tiny cars, the way they clung together with magnets, the way he could push them forward and down the track’s toy hill.  It was hallelujah for him.  And when the song came on — why this particular song at a town for tots found its way through the airwaves is beyond me — it was hallelujah for me too.  

At the time, I was  standing behind him, feeling a little fidgety, wanting to move, wanting to encourage my grandson buddy to do something else.  Why not make your way to the toddler-sized house or the farmyard filled with wooden animals ready for you to ride?!?  And then I heard it, the Hallelujah song, this time sung by a female artist, heard it filling the warehouse-toddler-town and I melted.  My fidgety-ness disappeared and I knelt down behind Viren and I breathed in deeply and I soaked in the “whatever-it-is-beneath-the-words”, the vibration of this song, and I opened to the moment with a transfixed grandson, opened to the other people too, the four-year-old-boy who was flitting from station to station, the little girl tumbling down the slide, the mother of the girl grading college freshmen papers, my daughter-in-law.  I relaxed into the moment, relaxed into my day.  Hallelujah Hallelujah.  

So hallelujah for a song that can soften my resistance and open my heart.  Today I continue to listen to a version of it on You Tube and it continues to feel good to me.  But do I need it?  Do any of us need a song or a person or a certain kind of weather or a certain amount of money or a certain way for the world to be in order for us to feel good, in order for us to soften and to soar with the hallelujahs that are at hand?  A week ago, in the early evening as the drizzly mist blew away and a streak of blue sky opened up over the western horizon, I jumped out of my car at Marquette’s food co-op and I went for it.  I only had a twenty minute window of time before I needed to get to my errands and back to Joy Center for the the Thursday event, but I couldn’t help myself.  Lake Superior was calling to me and my body wanted to move.  So off I went, jaunting along at a rapid pace, breathing in the brisk air, smiling at my fellow walkers, smiling at the ripe full moon that was rising above the Lake, smiling into the pink mist as I turned myself around after ten minutes, smiling at the gulls who were flying above me, smiling at something else that also was flying above me.  What was it?  I stopped and squinted and looked for the tell-tale flashes of white.  It was an eagle!  Not one eagle, but five!!!!!  Five eagles flying over the harbor and into the pink mist.  It was a moment to behold — and I wonder whether I would have missed it if I wasn’t soaring already, if I hadn’t leapt out of my car in a buoyant mood.  I tucked that moment into my heart, that Five-Eagle-Moment, pressed it in with both my hands, as I reminder that the hallelujahs are available; we just need to have the eyes to see them.

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Shouting ourselves alive!!!!

The Universe has shouted itself alive.  We are one of the shouts.  Ray Bradbury

I’m just going to say it:  I want it all!

Back at home this morning after a week in Moscow, Idaho where I had been visiting my son and daughter-in-law and toddler grandson, back at home as I allowed myself to be roused from sleep, the words were already there for me, clear and fully formed.  I want it all!  I want this glorious bed and the pillow that I’ve nestled into for years and the silk-screen painting of Lake Superior lit up by the moon that hangs on the sea-foam-colored wall across from the bed.  I want my bedmate, my soul mate, the guy I’ve known for almost forty years.  I want to cheer him on as I receive a text from South Dakota where he is now bow-hunting.  “Living my dream!” he says.  I want for him to live his dream and I want to live mine, too.

I want to feast on the time that I spend with that adorable grandson.  I want to take it in, to own it, that I really do think it is high-flying fun to sit on the floor and watch Thomas the Train on Net Flix, toddler grandson plopped on my lap, to cuddle close, to squeeze tight, to practically gobble him up as I say, “I love you!  I love you!  I love you!”  I want it all.  I want to gobble it up, to gorge on it, this life that I’m living.  And I want to say, “I love you!  I love you!  I love you!” to everything, the way that adorable grandson and I say it to his cars and his trucks and his menagerie of stuffed monkeys and puppies and squirrels.  I want to say it with the uninhibited innocence of a sixteen-month-old.  I love you friends and sons and daughter-in-laws.  I love you husband.  I love you strangers who smile at me and strangers who frown.  I love you snow that is gently falling right now and the sun that is up there somewhere brightening the sky.  I love you earth and I love you sky.  I want to say it with unbridled care-free toddler-like enthusiasm.  I love you!

I want it all.  I want to stuff it into my tiny book, the one that I made at Joy Center’s Book Art Club in September, the one I call “My Autumn Book.”  I want to squeeze this unwieldy life I’m living into the pages of this handcrafted journal.  I want to contain it.  I want to let it flow, too.  I want to say, “Flow through me Life!  Flow through my veins, ignite my flames, brighten my skin, brighten my days.”  I want for my cells to sing with the life I’m living.  I want it all, the hike to a waterfall in the autumn-colored Smokies on a mild afternoon with one son and, two weeks later, the hike up Idaho’s Moscow Mountain in pine-scented mist with the other son.  I want more and more of these heart-pumping hikes and I want to skate-ski, too.  I want for the snow to fly and I want to fly in this flying snow.  And I want to sing.  I want to sing the way my father used to sing, loud and full of gusto, no holding back.  I want to sing like that, and live like that, no holding back.

And what else do I want?  I want the comforts of home, my home, our home, the fireplace in the living room, the art on the walls, the embrace of a partner and the routines that I love.  I want the walks, the talks, the Friday evenings at Sweetwater Cafe.  I want to eat scrumptious foods, foods that are fresh and real, foods that titillate my senses and bring my body pleasure.  I want to feel  pleasure.  I want the deep sustaining pleasure of strong roots and a stable foundation and I want the wild too.  I want the Lake,  the grandest of all lakes.  I want it in all its moods.  I want  its thrashing waves.  Its crashing waves.  I want to be stirred inside.  I want the ocean too.  How could I not want the ocean?  I want the sea-smell in Maine, the fog that curls my hair, the salt that holds me up.  I want the Lake and the ocean and I want the mountains, the worn round mountains of the east coast and the jagged Rockies in the west.  I want the Alps, too, and the Himalayas and the Pyrenees.  I want the comfort of the old, the thrill of the new.  I want the reliable aging Subaru and the brand-new rental.  I want to travel.  I want to honor my traveling feet.  I want to wrap my arms, my long gangly eager arms around this whole thriving thrumming planet, to squeeze it close, to press my heart into its heart, and with the sincerity that I’ve learned from hanging around a toddler, to whisper and to shout, to sing and to scream, “I love you!  I love you!  I love you!”

100 Day Project

Use the creative process — singing, writing, art, dance, whatever — to get to know yourself better.  Catie Curtis

I’m back in Idaho’s panhandle this week for a several-day immersion into the world of play.  There are Book Babies mornings and afternoon stroller walks.  There are hours of indoor rumpus time with puzzles and books and blocks and trucks.  There are funny faces and games of chase.  There is silliness and giggly-ness and sweet morning cuddles.  There is all of this and then there are trains.  My sixteen-month-old grandson Viren is my host and  he is obsessed with trains.  Two days ago, at the indoor play park, I felt a bit like a golden retriever puppy, bounding from one station to the next.  There was the farmer’s market complete with plastic fruits and veggies, with cucumbers that you’d swear were the real deal, and the mini house with all its mini appliances and the dollhouse inside the mini-house and the toddler farm yard and the netted-in pre-school dream-of-a-gym filled with slides and trampolines and swings that took you high.  And in the midst of this indoor toddler  town, on a table painted green-grass green and blue-lake blue and brown-dirt brown, lay the tracks of the preschool train and the train’s wooden cars and all the wooden pieces just waiting to be brought to life.  And that’s what Viren did while his mother and his grandmother made the rounds.  He stood on his toddler feet for well over an hour connecting the train cars together, shunting them forward, watching them whoosh down the train track hill, then picking them up and starting over.  This was serious business for Viren, a different kind of play.  With single-focused intensity, he carried his mission forward.  The same thing happened the next day at the Moscow toy store and this morning at the public library’s Book Babies.  It was the train sets that caught his attention and drew him in.

I get it.  This single-focused intensity.  This full-bodied satisfaction that arises when we allow ourselves to ride the rails of a project that excites us. Our inner engines chug and our whistles blow full-steam ahead when we are on-track, on our own passionate track.  Like Viren, I love to socialize, to skitter around on my toes, to be gloriously silly; we are both good at all of this.  AND, like Viren, I love to lose all sense of time in an activity that stokes my creative fire.  I was thinking about my creative fire the other day as I traipsed through the neighborhoods of Moscow during Viren’s afternoon nap time.  Perhaps it was the snow falling in wet globs and sticking to the trees that propelled my thinking forward to winter and the promise of new possibilities.  I found my mind settling on a project that is coming Joy Center’s way in January.  A group of nine or so Marquette County artists who committed to a practice of creating some sort of art each day for one hundred days is now sharing this powerful practice with the community at large and Joy Center has decided to get involved.  And I personally am eager to be a part of this one hundred days of county-wide parallel-play.

And so, here is the challenge: find something that we can commit to for one hundred days, perhaps something that enhances the art we’re already doing, or something that stretches us in new ways.  It is the process that is emphasized, not a polished product.   And the possibilities are endless.  My mind was swirling around with the snow flakes as I walked along Moscow’s slushy sidewalks.  What do I want to commit to?  I already live a busy life, I thought.  I already have a writing practice that gets my inner train’s boiler boiling and other practices that bring me joy.  There’s the yoga and the workshops at Joy Center and the skate-skiing and the traveling.  How’s a gal supposed to fit something else into this already-packed schedule?  It was Viren who came to mind as I forged ahead on my afternoon jaunt.  My sixteen-month-old grandson lets fun lead the way him and I’ve climbed on board the fun train, too.  Whatever I choose as a project has to ignite me up from the inside or its not worth doing.  And it has to feel easy.

“And what does ignite me up from the inside?” I wondered.  “And what seems easy?”  I trudged through the snow and I mulled it over.  It certainly warms me up to play with Viren.  And yet, back home, I have to admit that it’s not the model trains that send me into a skitter-dance.  As I trudged and mulled, I pulled my cell phone out of my coat’s pocket to check the time and I realized that this handy-dandy invention lights me up, that not only do I love chatting on the phone but I also love snapping photos with its easy-peazy camera.  I could do that.  Every day I could snap a photo.  I could do that at home.  I could do that while traveling.  And on the ski trails too.  Fifteen years ago, I made it a practice to take a photo a day, only one photo, every day, for a year.  It was a glorious exercise, one that trained me to see the world with a more attentive eye, how beauty and wonder and color-filled life surrounded me wherever I happened to find myself on a given day.  And now, the photo idea excited me —  it could be a travelogue of my everyday life or a fashion journal of people on the street or an homage to food or something else that I haven’t considered yet.  By the time I rounded the corner to Viren’s street, I was doing my own sidewalk skitter-dance.  It’s energizing to feel our inner fires burning, energizing to commit to something that excites us, energizing to be a part of project that connects us to our community.

And it’s energizing to open the door to a sixteen-month-old grandson’s house, to walk right in to the  land of toy trains, ready to cheer this little guy on.

Viren working on his train

Viren working on his train

Perfection is boring

I like a good flaw.  It makes us human.  Perfection is boring.  Kiera Knightley

“It’s fun making books with the kids,” my friend Amber said the other day.  Amber and her husband Raja, book-binder poets who lead book-art workshops at Joy Center each month, had just taught a class for kids at the local library, and she was telling me about it.  “The kids don’t worry if their folds are perfect and their stitches are lined up just so.  They love their books and they love the process.”  It’s not like Amber and Raja don’t delight in teaching us, the adults; they do.  We all sense their enthusiasm as they cheerfully, patiently guide us through the various techniques for creating a book from piles of paper and cardboard and thread and glue.  But I know what she means.  When my inner critic pops to the surface and tells me that my books are a lopsided mess, I get so serious about it, voicing my dismay to anyone who cares to listen to my rumblings.  And the strange thing is that I always end up loving the finished products and I always have fun at the book-binding workshops and I sense that I could just skip over this step of being hard on myself, skip right into that stage of delight.  I sense that I could take a cue from the kids.

It seems that kids are my greatest teachers right now.  Specifically toddlers.  Two in particular.  There’s my grandson Viren whose middle name could be Enthusiasm, who plunges ahead on his daily tasks unaffected by the notion that his results might fall short of perfection.  He lets fun be his guide and fun takes him all over the place.  A month and a half ago, back when Viren was a mere fourteen months old and not the pro on recreational equipment that he is now, his mother sent us a short e-mail video of an early venture to a  shopping mall playground.  Viren was full of himself as he climbed up the steps of the mall’s sturdy toddler-friendly slide, as he flew down and plopped diapered-butt first onto the carpeted floor.  He was full of himself as he picked himself up, turned himself around, as he shook his head back and forth and chortled a  “what a ride!” chortle, full of himself as he toddled back to the ladder for a second go.  And it was more of the same, the flying down, the landing with a plop, the picking himself up, the chortling and the head shake.  He was having a blast.  And I was, too, as I watched this sneak peak into his day.   And then there was the third attempt.  It started out the same and that’s what I expected, a third otter-like slide, a third plop, a chortle.  But something went awry.  Perhaps a foot got stuck or fatigue set in because  half-way down the slide his toddler body toppled forward into a full-front flip, a somersault through space and a landing on the floor, flat out.  The “Oh my God, Viren!” from his mother had a hint of an “everything-is-all-right” laugh in it, so I knew that I could laugh too.  And the text sent along with this video shared that Viren was the one who was laughing the hardest.

In Viren’s book this was no mistake.  He doesn’t give a rip about the rules of sliding, the whole on-your-butt approach that is encouraged by the outside world of parents and grandparents.  This was an interesting variation, a glorious discovery that he just happened upon.  I watched that video over and over, felt thrilled by the gusto he displayed to plunge right in, to go for something that excited him, sometimes butt-first, sometimes head-over-heels.   And Viren is not the only little tyke I know with that get-go spirit.  There’s baby Abagail, daughter of Stephanie, my graphic artist friend at Globe Printing.  Abagail’s middle name must be Enthusiasm, too.   Even before she had mastered the art of crawling, teen-tiny elfkin Abagail was determined to walk, and walk she did, taking those first tottering steps at eight-months-old.   A few weeks ago, Stephanie showed me a video of nine-month-old Abagail on a jaunt across the living room.  It almost didn’t seem like it could be true, such a wee one upright, but there she was toddle-scampering across the room.  And she wasn’t just walking; she was also nodding her head “up and down, up and down.”  It was the two acts together that seemed to be causing Abagail some problems.  But that’s not true.  That’s the perfectionist in me talking.  I don’t think she was considering this a problem at all, this nodding, this stepping — this plunk and plop when she’d topple over.  She was like a buoyant bouncy toy that bopped right back up again, each time still nodding her head, “yes!”

Isn’t it the best?!?  I want to drink it in, the innate wisdom of these two toddling teachers, and of those kids in Amber and Raja’s library class, too.  I want to nod my head, “yes!”  I want to plunge in more often to what feels good and worry less about how things might look to the outside world.  Yesterday I was involved in a conversation with two friends and somehow we started musing about being president of our own lives.  And one of my friends piped up, “When we’re living from the inside out, we’re president of  our lives; when we’re caring about what others think, we’re being politicians.”  I’m going for the president role, the inside role, to taking a cue from Abagail and nodding my head “yes” to what feels good, to reveling in the ride like Viren, to saying “Who cares what others think?!?” and meaning it more and more often.    I’m going for the fun that is sometimes messy and lopsided.   So what if we topple over sometimes, if we get glue on our fingers and paint on our noses?!?  When you’re living from the inside out we don’t give a rip.

Abagail, October 2013

Abagail, October 2013

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