The Beast Within

A stuffed toy or a feathered bird. The difference is minimal to the nature of the beast. Chase, attack, conquer. It is simply what a cat will do.

The words are said, describing the harm. The response is defensive, attacking. The angry reciprocation is unchecked and discharged.

The cat crouches next to the window, ready to pounce yet aware of the physical barrier. The instructions are clear, don’t let the cat out, he will kill the birds.

I hear the words, the angry rejection of a different point of view. Battle lines of truth and anger are delineated. I notice the character spewing the words become narrow and limited. I lose sight of the humor and playfulness. All I witness is rage. The person I know has disappeared into the abyss of anger. I wish for clear instructions, keep away from judgment or individual will self-destruct. The individual is unable to distinguish between a different point of view and their personal perception of truth. Physically, I notice the veins expanding, face turning red, fists clenched, body ready to attack.

Muscles strong, eyes soft, standing firm. I reflect the anger, rage, and intolerance. The choice is defined; anger or accountability.

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Popular Meaning

Again, the words are repeated. The parrot is content to say the same thing over and over again. I am sure the bird doesn’t understand the meaning of the words. The sound is familiar and repeated. I wonder, is it comforting to use the same words and sounds over and over again?

Words, such as ‘mondegreen’ and ‘bafflegab’ have experienced both increased and decreased popularity over time. As the bird again repeats the same words I remind myself to notice overused words. Then, I wonder, what word(s) would I like to hear often, regularly, yet with meaning?

‘There’s no place like home’ is a common phrase and brings memories of red shoes and a dog named Toto even though it is from an 80-year-old movie. Merriam-Webster has officially added ‘bingeable’ and ‘hangry’ to its thousands of entries, one indication of how language evolves.

What word would I like to hear every day, often, repeated, with meaning? What word would I enjoy saying every day, inviting a deepening of the sound and meaning? The vibration and history of the words ‘amen’ ‘namaste’ and ‘aho’ have the ability to evoke a variety of feelings and comfort. Searching deeper, I consider a list of words and phrases that bring me joy, comfort, or inspiration. A smile forms on my face as the words surface and I know, unconditionally, what I want to hear each day.

‘What do you want?’

My body is refreshed when I recognize the words I want to say every day.

‘Yes, I can’

Thunder

I remember her saying “The angels are bowling” and thought, how silly and yet comforting. As the loud sound echoes through the mountains I remember my grandmother and imagine angels bowling in the clouds, laughing and competing with each other. Mostly, I thought of my grandmother. Victoria. The one I was named after. 

Another loud boom and my body jumps. Clearly, the thunder expects to be heard. I wonder, did my grandmother, who lived through WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, while raising a family, expect to be heard? 

I remember her voice being gentle, somewhat timid, yet often warning her husband to stop teasing us kids. He was like thunder, doing what he wanted, expecting to be heard. He loved to party and sing, she loved to cook and care for her family.

Lightening exposes the sky. Which is more dominant, thunder or lightning? Both warn of rain, potential deluge, flooding, and rock slides. Is it possible to determine which is stronger, or more forceful?

The storm passes, cleansing the sky, air and ground. I have not seen, heard or felt my grandparents in over 44 years. I wonder, did my grandmother, Victoria, expect me to remember her as sweetly as the smell of flowers after the rain?

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End-less Curiosity

I crave the grit and dryness. The smell of saltwater and the tightness of my skin after swimming in the ocean. When I was younger, much younger, I assumed everyone knew the ocean, swam in the saltwater, felt the waves. Learning that not everyone experienced the sand, blue horizon and moods of the tides, I was bewildered. Didn’t everyone have the same experiences? I could not imagine life without my feet regularly sinking into the sand with the movement of the ocean.

Being curious, I began to question life different from mine. If others never knew the ocean, what did they experience that was not familiar to me? What existed in this vast world that I didn’t know I wanted, yet? My curiosity is endless and every day, especially in this age of unlimited information, there is a growing list of knowledge I don’t know. Every day, I seem to know less and want to know more.

I feel the salt, smell the cleansing ocean, sink my feet into the sand and know, deeply, all I truly want is this precious moment.

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Bending Memories

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I am tempted to take my camera out of my backpack. Each scene unfolding before me is more stunning than the previous image. I hesitate, wanting to be present, to absorb the beauty surrounding me. At the same time, I want to capture the magic of nature. Two forces, existing together – being present in the moment and wanting to remember. 

 

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I know from experience, my memories are not always accurate. The past has a tendency to bend, fold and sometimes mutilate. 

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I notice the running water, the shape of the trees, the katydid with the incredibly long antenna and I feel the urge to hold that memory forever. I am also aware that by the time I take out my camera the scene before me will change, alter, constantly moving towards the next destination. 

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My desire for a sense of permanence is strong. I take out my camera, stand still, and look for angles, shapes, and beauty. I look for details, enduring qualities, raw yet temporary wonder. Each image changes me, reminding me of the force of change.

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In this moment, standing still, witnessing, capturing the wildness of nature, I am aware that memories of me will be as distilled as the light filtering through the trees. I wonder, will I remember who I am, as life quickly flows by?

Protective Shield

The words surround me then enter my body. I feel them beating in my muscles, absorbing into my bones. The letters forming words and accompanied by anger infect my blood and run through my veins. My back bends, my eyes are unable to look to the sky, my stomach tightens. The words feel as painful as a 2×4 bruising my skin. 

The words are physically painful. I am vulnerable and unprepared. I believe the words, unquestionably. Until.

“Of course you are the one to say something positive.” I hear my friend’s voice but struggle to believe. How could that be true when the words that live in my body have informed me of my defects.

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The words of anger, manipulation, blame, follow me step by step as I walk along the ocean. The saltwater finds it’s way into my skin, muscles, and blood. The pounding of the waves weakens the foundation of the bruises. The seagulls call for me to straighten my back and look up at the sky. 

The wind caresses me, removing the illusion of the angry words, replacing them with the awareness that I am worthy.

I learn, step by step, the skills to detach. To find compassion for myself and others. I learn to be responsible for myself and no one else. The process is often not joyful as I peel off the protective shield I have built around myself. The shield that believes in the illusion that I am not worthy. Slowly, cautiously, I begin to believe in my words. Step by step I remember to dream. Surrounded by joy, I gratefully radiate the truth of who I am.

I learn to stand tall when I hear angry words. I observe their painful intent as they fade into the wind, unattached.

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Returning to Nature

The words in the printed book explain about the tides. The moon, sun, depth of the water, how narrow channels influence the distance of the tides. Sitting near the moving water I hear the comment, “The temperature is either too warm or too cold. It’s never just right.” I hear and question. What is just right? Is it our determination, our judgment? Or, is it simply right to know that everything we see, hear, feel is just as it is meant to be, and that is just right?

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Water returning home

I look at a picture of a major metropolitan city. Heating, air conditioning, public transportation, so much effort to make the conditions just right. Innovation is revered, desired and valued and the new ideas are discussed with excitement. I also remember talking to a Brazilian who had recently moved to the city that never sleeps. He didn’t hesitate, quickly responding “Here, you can’t pray. There’s a cloud over the city and prayers can’t reach the stars. In Brazil, your prayers are heard.”

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People move like the tides. Expanding into the country, retreating to the city. Connecting with the trees, animals, and stars, finding their way back to community, structures, and the future. When is our connection with nature just right?

Routinely Noticing

It’s a short path from my front door to the compost pile. I’ve been walking these few steps for seven years. Every few years the compost will be moved or given a new structure. Most days I need to take my food scraps and follow the familiar path and add the scraps to the decomposing pile. Down the front steps, then right, passing the knock-out rose bush, the peony, and oriental irises. 

Seven years has brought a few changes in my garden. I’ve moved the comfrey to the side of the house. I’ve tried to grow rosemary in different locations in my ongoing attempt to successfully overwinter the herb. Some years I am able to tend to the yard more than other years. Currently, I’ve been able to reconnect with my garden. Noticing the daily changes as I walk the short way from my front door to the soon to be rich soil. I’ve appreciated the primrose that has mysteriously appeared next to the peony. The russian sage is mostly clear of weeds. The peony is large enough to be separated and spread. I never get tired of noticing. My five-minute task of walking back and forth often offers an invitation to wonder.  

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Each year I introduce a few new plants, looking for variety, color, and texture. As much as I enjoy the comfort of familiarity I tend to gravitate toward change. Similar to the seasons, I find myself renewed with the shift of the earth’s angle. The light changes, along with temperatures and as a result the landscape is altered. I generally resist doing the same thing over and over, yet, routinely I walk the short path to the compost pile.

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Noticing, with curiosity, reveals nature’s beauty and bounty. There are even days when I am able to bring my curiosity, noticing and wonder beyond the short garden path. Witnessing the way a bud slowly unfurls as it enters the world whispers courage. Creativity giggles and ripples from my heart from the way the yarrow and salvia contrast and complement each other. There are days I radiate for hours as I carry the vision of a rosebud softly surrounded by morning mist. I absolutely cherish when I remember to notice, wonder and inquire about and within me. 

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Vibration of Words

I let the words settle, slowly. The vibration of their energy moves down my throat and into my gut. Of course, I’d like to give voice to the words, to accentuate my anger. Wisdom intervenes and the words are absorbed. Silence prevents me from having to swallow my pride after releasing the distortion of my emotion. I rely on the tools I’ve learned to respond with intention rather than reaction.

There was a time when the distance from my ears, hearing a word, to my mouth responding with a word, was done without the benefit of breath. This time, I listen, breathe, feel, think and then, with intention, choose silence. I want my words to have meaning, to express my truth. At this moment, every part of my body tells me I will not be heard or understood. It’s not that I feel speaking will be a waste of energy. I simply want to choose the type of energy expressed with words. This time, giving voice to the words would only result in manipulation, misunderstanding and hurt. I do not want my words to result in harm. I have all too many experiences and consequences as a result of harmful words.

With silence my breathing relaxes, lengthens. The anger dissipates and other emotions are acknowledged. I do my best to calm my voice and strengthen my determination to unravel the conflict. “I heard you say…. now help me understand.”

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Dead Wood

dscn0258It started with the long, hot, dry weather, unusual for the mountains in autumn. It was the drought that came first. Then, the fires. The continued lack of rain combined with human insensitivity ignited a crisis. The physical result included the burning of 55,531 acres. Two months, 987 personnel, 700 structures damage, and at least seven dead, by the time the fires were extinguished. Before the fires started, the weather created the environment conducive to flames.

Another fire was also burning. Decades of civil rights progress, legally, culturally and politically, ignited with comments like

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

“The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yamakas every day.”

“If you can’t get rich dealing with politicians, there’s something wrong with you.”

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”

“One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

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There are theories that forests need occasional burns to clear the dead wood and create an environment for new, healthy growth.

Politically, as rights are threatened, as violent words are spoken, the flame of anger has the potential to clear the debris of prejudice and the myths that disconnect ‘them’ from ‘us’.

During a forest fire, the animals leave without resistance. Some humans refused to leave, holding on to their material possessions, believing everything will remain the same. Some became aware of the need to act, to make changes, and when the fires became too dangerous, choose safety.

The fires of the 2016 election have released the anger of dead wood in our country. The dead wood of affluenza. The dead wood of sexism. The dead wood of racism. I welcome the burn. I encourage the destruction of beliefs that prevent new regrowth. In time, everything dies, everything is recycled and given new life.