Aren’t we all a little lost in ‘Nomadland’?

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.

Winter Solstice & Gratitude

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 Shortest Day

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 into my past…

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.

Kansas was home to him…

Taking the Polar Express to Christmas Memories

We have a strong Christmas tradition at our house. On the snowiest day after December 1st, we get out our old copy of the film “Polar Express”, make some hot chocolate and watch again the story of keeping the magic alive. Each year we seem to see new details that we have never noticed before. This year this quote really struck home for me:

“The Thing About Trains…It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to GET ON…”

I already had the theme of transformation on my mind before we started watching. How much had our lives transformed themselves since we started watching this movie? What had brought on these major changes and how did we have enough faith to believe in those dreams? We had followed our dreams all the way south to Walsenburg, and then built a new home because we believed so much in harnessing the power of the sun to make our lives better. Mike had so much confidence in his ability to construct a exemplary passive solar home, and I believed in his ability to make our lives better.

Granted, our first year here was rough by any standard. We could find only one place to rent in Walsenburg for that year and it was a hundred years old and mighty crusty. Building a house is always messy, and especially in mid-winter in a rural area with few qualified workers.

We gave up on the idea of having a Christmas tree that year, because our stuff was scattered everywhere and we didn’t have room for one anyway! We just hung our stockings on the wall and called it good.

But the house did get finished eventually, (in July) and we moved in August 1st 2015. The next Christmas was a delight! We were able to go out and cut our own tree on our land. What a beauty!

As the years go by, holidays like Christmas can become a touchstone as we think back to many previous and precious holidays with friends and family. I was inspired to look back at so many old family photographs this week. I wanted to put together a special baby brag book for my Mom to fill her with joy, because she has always LOVED KIDS!

Just to remind her of past holidays with her kids (as little ones), her grandkids and…

…our special addition Nicky, who arrived in August 2021!

What have I found to be healing?

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.

This morning’s sunrise from our home in rural southern Colorado

Emotional Healing

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!

Spiritual Healing

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!

Are all illnesses caused by our minds?

You cannot control how other people receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through the lens of whatever they are going through at the moment, which is NOT ABOUT YOU.

I met a new person this week who has me quite perplexed. After speaking to her for only a few minutes, she offered me quite a bit of advice. She diagnosed my problems as, “You need to get out of your head to attract good health and healing.” Her swiftness and certainty was disturbing and mildly annoying considering the fact she does not know me at all. She apparently believes all physical ailments are simply a manifestation of emotional problems. Solve those and the illness disappears. This left me wondering, if I told her I have lung cancer, would she recommend better counseling?

To deal with my confusion I spent some time today talking with my favorite health professional about my exchange with this self-defined “healer.” She first emphasized to me that there is no certainty in the field of medicine. That is why they call themselves “practitioners.” Even what may seem like a perfect diagnosis after months of testing and analysis still has no certainty. So for someone who describes herself as a “healer” to decide after just a few minutes of conversation that she knows how to “fix” me is absurd. That same health professional I once told to “Walk a mile in my shoes!” when she suggested that she knew how it felt to be constantly out of breathe while dealing with a severe head injury. Since then my friend has read and recommended the book: “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” by Jill Bolte Taylor Ph.D., who experienced a massive stroke at age 37. Now I believe my friend has a much better understanding of what I deal with every single day.

Blaming the victim?

I never forgot an image from my counseling internship at a rehab hospital 25 years ago. I went in to speak to an elderly lady and the first thing she said was, “Why is this happening to me? Doesn’t God love me anymore?” In other words, what did I do to deserve this illness? First of all, we all will die of something. I do not believe we “cause” everything that happens to us. Did Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist, cause her own stroke? Did I choose or cause myself decades of bronchitis and extreme breathing difficulties? Did I somehow choose to almost die numerous times from hypoxia? What about genetics, air pollution, and my choice to live a stress-filled life in a number of foreign countries?

What do we hope for when we make ourselves vulnerable to others?

What I need from others when I tell them about my difficulties in breathing and concentration is caring concern, non-judgment and, most of all, compassion. I crave exactly what David Richo lists in his book “How to Be an Adult in Relationships.” Drawing on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, David recommends we offer others our attention (observing, listening, and noticing the feelings at play), acceptance of them just as they are, appreciation of their gifts, limits, longings and affection.

After a lifetime of carefully observing how others respond to pain, I was disappointed with this recent acquaintance. Some run away from pain or change the subject. Others immediately try to “fix” me. When they suggest that they have simple answers to complex problems I have been dealing with for decades, I know they do not know of what they speak.