I just realized this past week my new life theme: “Quit trying so hard!” After struggling my whole life for more, I find great relief in simple contentment, my own version of living in the present.
Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is!
If you pay attention to the messages from our culture, you find a constant barrage of: You can do better. You SHOULD be better. The sky is the limit. No matter what your age, do more! To that I say, why? Yes, I understand why younger folks might benefit from hearing that theme, but get real. With my lung and brain limitations, this is as good as it gets, and I would like to feel good about that.
Another theme I hear all around me these day is the comfort so many of my friends find in their families, especially their grandkids. That is wonderful for them. Mike and I have never been big on family and neither one of us were into kids. Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw in Denver ages ago: “Thank you for not breeding.” I remember thinking, “Wow, nobody ever thanked me before!”
Mike and I have been environmentalists forever. We believe in building native gardens and solar homes, using fewer natural resources and living a simple life. We find daily meaning and satisfaction living close to nature and we each have our own ongoing creative projects.
The one desire that keeps coming up for me, is a strong ‘need’ to spend some time on a beach somewhere near the ocean before I die. I have spent a few of my most glorious days on earth on the beaches of Cane Garden Bay, Tortola (BVI), on the Kona Coast of Hawaii and at Pattaya in southern Thailand back in the 1970s. So I say, take me away now to any isolated, beautiful beach! I have some purely intuitive urge to go back to where we all came from.
I know, I get the movies a lot later than most of you. I borrow them from La Veta Public Library, such a lovely, friendly place, where everyone knows my name 🙂 It’s so much more personal than streaming…
In the first few minutes of watching the film ‘Nomadland’ I thought about my brother John, who was homeless until about a year ago when we helped him find a home in Walsenburg. I thought, here we go, this is going to really make me appreciate the fact that I have a lovely solar home on a ridge overlooking the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo range, and yes, it certainly did that. But as I got deeper into the daily life and choices of Fern, the roaming nomad in this film, I understood the metaphor presented for all of us to relate to. Questions like: Do we need to work to feel adequate? Do we look down on the nomads we meet and should we? What about all the homeless in towns like Walsenburg whom we see sleeping in doorways and down by the river? What about them?
Nomadland was unique in some ways because all of the characters were mobile, moving from place to place for jobs, or help from others, or whatever suited them. The freedom of being mobile was important to who they were. They also found great fellowship with other nomads by camping together for long periods of time. Not everybody wants to be alone all the time, or around others much of the time. I got their lifestyle and their choices. I loved the honesty with which these folks spoke of end of life choices like choosing not to die in a hospital, and their own celebrations of life when one of their members died.
Many of them were depressed and why not? How many of us wonder everyday about our world and where it’s headed? Past a certain age, loss is a major factor for all of us. Loss of abilities, health, independence, loved ones, stability and sanity. The characters here deal with all of that day to day in an honest way, like we all must to some extent.
Pretending that life will not change or that this will not end soon is hopeless. We may all be lost in our own version of ‘nomadland’ and this film might help you accept that.
In the cool darkness of the early morning, my thoughts turn to the billions of people who have come before me. How difficult must their lives have been. I am reminded of the quote from Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), considered to be one of the founders of modern philosophy. Back then, he described human life as ‘nasty, brutish and short,’ which serves to remind us of what a good time and place we were born into.
In spite of my own very human problems, I feel fabulously lucky to have lived the life I have been given. Living in a time with access to nutritional food, heat in our homes, nice clothes, vaccines, comfortable transportation to almost anywhere and access to an excellent education, books, media, wonderful music, we must be some of the most fortunate humans in history! And yet, all we do is complain… We seem to lack perspective.
The Winter Solstice in Human History
The winter solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle for most ancient cultures back to the neolithic. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter food reserves. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this.
This is attested to by physical remains in the layouts of some ancient archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and ceremonial structures in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. The primary axis of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset at Stonehenge.
To the Ancient ones, the winter solstice was immensely important. They were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months.” In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast, before deep winter began. Most domestic animals were slaughtered because they could not be fed during the winter, so it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready to drink at this time.
I have found this day to be a good time to count my many blessings and perhaps error on the side of the positive. The sun will return to bring spring and summer to warm the earth and make my sky garden bloom again. So yes, we do have much to look forward to. Let us drink and rejoice!
A pilgrimage is a journey where a person goes in search of new meaning about their Self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life…
When Mike first suggested that we drive to Manhattan Kansas to visit his older sister, I thought he was kidding. Neither one of us is crazy about Kansas, him less than me. You see, I was raised in Emporia, Kansas until age 11, when we moved to Boulder, Colorado. Talk about a culture shock as I entered my teens! But we always drove back to Kansas City at Christmas to see our grandparents on both sides, so this drive east felt somehow familiar to me. It was mostly uneventful until a truck pulling a long trailer almost changed lanes into us! Grrrrrrr…
To make up for it, we witnessed an AMAZING orange sunset behind us at the end of our day!
We rented a beautiful Airbnb apartment on Tuttle Creek Reservoir north of Manhattan and it was lovely. So well-appointed and comfortable, our home away from home. Mike got to spend some quality time with his sister, who suffers from a number of disabilities, and I had lots of time to relax and read.
This was our view of the lake from our apartment.
Then we experienced quite the adventure when we were in town having dinner on Wednesday. A tornado came right over us! We were at an Olive Garden when the storm hit. At first they said they couldn’t serve us and then they did because where else were we going to go? When our food came they told us to run in the kitchen if they called us, but the storm blew over eventually. It was quite the memorable Kansas dinner and the staff was so protective and friendly to us…
Yesterday we started east on I-70. Along the way we saw so many highway signs bent over backwards or completely destroyed by that storm! The wind was so fierce on Wednesday, but by Friday is was a beautiful sunny day with almost no wind. We decided to head south at Oakley, Kansas on the backroads, and I’m glad we did.
We observed hundreds of miles of tiny towns, silos everywhere, and Eastern Colorado farmland…
I was surprised to find how this trip east affected me emotionally. It brought back many memories of my father, who died last year. I felt his presence at various points in the trip and missed and mourned his passing over and over again. He loved collecting plants and birding along Kansas backroads.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our use of the word “healing” in normal conversations. There can be no doubt that many who have defined themselves as spiritual healers have plundered this word to gain the trust of those who feel unhealthy, unhappy or incomplete in their lives, but what does it really mean?
Definition of healing: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the process of becoming or making somebody/something healthy again, OR with physical damage or disease suffered by an organism, healing involves the repair of living tissue, organs and the biological system as a whole and resumption of functioning.
I have been incredibly lucky to have experienced mostly good health in my life. Even as I suffered from many emotional challenges, I kept my physical health, mostly. It has only been in the past six years that the physical difficulties arrived. In my past, my struggles have tended towards emotional.
I finally found a truly ‘healing’ therapist in my thirties in Boulder and met with her for over five years. She provided for me my first trustworthy relationship in my life and then proceeded to offer me reframing and reparenting therapy, which showed me why I had suffered so much in my past and how to move forward in a more healthy way. This is why I believe strongly that most could benefit from finding the proper psychotherapist and spending a few years building trust with them. There is no doubt in my mind that this therapist saved my emotional life and set me on a much healthier path towards full-personhood. But this healing therapy required much trust and time to occur. I paid cash for those five years of counseling, and to this day I feel those were the best dollars I ever spent!
In addition to a number of positive counseling relationships with others, I used the skills I gathered from studying counseling at Naropa University for five years, to learn to love and accept my Self, so much so that when I hit a major midlife crisis at age 49, I was properly prepared to change many aspects of my Self. When I got divorced, lost my job and then my career, I found I had the time, the need and energy to spend a year or so alone, deciding what was next for me. That was when I made a conscious decision that my highest priority for the rest of my life was to experience genuine love and loyalty from another person. As soon as that became my most honest and powerful priority, I met someone worthy of my love and trust.
This has been my second most powerful healing experience for the past seventeen years. Learning trust on deeper and deeper levels has made me feel truly safe and happy for the first time ever.
The Healing Power of Nature
My final healing experience might at first appear contradictory. We moved to a rural space in southern Colorado in 2014. At first I was resistant because it was all so foreign to me. I had always lived in cities for my career as a University Librarian. Now I found myself in a bit of a foreign land and it took me a few years to adjust to the peace and beauty of this land…
From the beginning it was the silence that seduced me. Observing sweeping, majestic sunrises and sunsets also gave me a new sense of purpose and peace. I found my city-induced, unconscious level of vigilance slowly melting away as I relaxed into the safety and peace of Mother Earth.
Today I rejoice in the fact that I have found my sacred place to throw my ashes when I die…
In contrast, my health has slowly dwindled by living at 7,000 feet. It took me a long time to accept that I would need supplemental oxygen to continue to live here. Falls and concussions have become more common. No, life is not perfect, but this place still feels like home in the best sense of that word.
When I look out over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains numerous times each day I feel certain I am home…
So, as I look back over my life I see that I needed to learn lessons in loving my Self, loving others and loving the silence and solace of living closer to nature to heal my life. All of these avenues to better health were chosen by me either unconsciously or on a fully conscious level.All I feel is gratitude at this point in my life…
Postscript: After further thought I realized I need to add a few more important avenues to my own healing: pets, art, music, travel, writing, reading, art, color, my still lifes, the weather, photography, gardening, and especially the SUN!
Raised in small towns in Iowa and Kansas, my first memories of Asia were greeting my Dad when he returned from his regular journeys to India. He always brought back beautiful souvenirs and slides to show us. As a child, the strangeness of this very different culture halfway around the world, fascinated me. I was also introduced to Indian music and food very early. To this day they are my favorites!
This is all to show you why I fell in love with the film “The Namesake” at first sight this week. The music, from the very beginning, with Tabu’s incredible voice(!), is exquisite. I couldn’t help but wish that this experience came with a lovely, big Indian meal. Mira Nair is my new favorite director. I must see more of her films! But what struck me the most was the emotional depth of her style of storytelling and the beauty of the people of India. That and how much I was drawn to the actor Irrfan Khan, who died this year at 53. He was truly “distinguished and charismatic” and “an enormously valuable bridge between South Asian and Hollywood cinema,” according to Peter Bradshaw of the “The Guardian.” I also loved him in the film “Puzzle” from 2018.
The story is quite simple. The Namesake depicts the struggles of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, first-generation immigrants from West Bengal to the United States, and their American-born children Gogol and Sonia. The film takes place primarily in Kolkata India and the New York City area. I was constantly reminded of generational differences in my own family growing up, as this first generation American family struggled with the different cultures of India and America. And we thought our Dad didn’t understand our generation! Imagine what is must be like if your parents are from a culture a world away.
The film is also an excellent example of the contrasts between Eastern and Western cultures. The East is far more family and community oriented. They find Americans self-centered and even selfish. In the West we do what we please, especially when we are young. Family may become important later for us. I found this film to be a commentary on the toxic loneliness of American society today.
Ever since I lived in Bangkok in 1973-74, I have found Asia to be so different and yet so fascinating. As a teenager I felt almost like I had gone to the moon, everything was just so different compared to Kansas and Colorado. In college, graduate school and in my career as a librarian, I worked to bring these two worlds closer together in the eyes of Americans…
— but now I can see that movies like this do the most for us all to truly understand and appreciate our own shared humanity. There is no world that needs this more now than the human race.I found this film so soothing…