Nature versus Numbness

Xmas 2010 JackThis past week I spent some time with my father, Jack Carter, a botanist and naturalist. He was a professor of biology at numerous universities and colleges, and is now a professor emeritus at Colorado College. He chose, much like Mike and I, to leave the city behind as he retired, and lived in rural New Mexico until recently.  I feel like my father understands the importance of developing special connections with nature, so I enjoy discussing with him how my own feelings have changed in the past few years just by moving away from the many distractions of city life.

 Crab Apple Tree

I enjoyed my time up north in the city, because spring has already arrived there. Just outside my parents’ door is a marvelous Crab Apple Tree in full bloom. What a beauty! The cities have so many introduced trees and plants that make it more colorful in the spring. I experienced a small amount of spring-envy…

On the other hand, as I walked around the lovely grounds near their home, all I could hear was traffic in the distance. This is a sound I am completely familiar with. Every city I have ever lived in has this distant roar of people in cars going somewhere, or at least trying to, with an occasional siren thrown in.

When I spoke with my Dad about this, he observed that everything in cities is about getting in your car to go somewhere. The distractions are constant and everywhere. They don’t allow us to become fully aware of our surroundings or even the people we meet. I sat outside, listened and understood why I haven’t connected well with nature for most of my life. There was just too much else going on.

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Then I started explaining to my Dad how much I finally appreciate nature. I love the morning silence, something I have heard so rarely in my life. I love the sound of birds as they get louder, welcoming another bountiful spring. I feel so in touch with each new change in the trees, the plants, the birds, and the weather. It is like a new awakening in my own soul.

Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein

My Dad understands these things. These are the reasons he chose to live outside cities until his health required moving closer to his doctors. There is something so reassuring about how the cycle of life and death continues regardless of anything we do to change it. This seems like cause for celebration for me, and I celebrate it every morning as the sun comes up.

Laura 60th birthday partyI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

When Breath Becomes Air

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“No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night.”                    (pg. 34 of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)

I just finished reading this fine book, the last written words of a top neurosurgeon who died in his mid-thirties of lung cancer in March of 2015. With a recent scary cat scan of my own lungs in January, you may wonder why I chose to read this book now. I wasn’t sure myself until I read it.

First of all, Kalanithi is obviously a deep thinker, always searching for the meaning in life. In fact as I read I realized he had the opposite reaction than most of us when confronted with such a daunting diagnosis. Most become more emotional, he seemed to become more analytical. This was not my response to my own recent confrontation with death. My response was along the lines of: “Am I proud of my life?”

One aspect of Kalnithi’s story rang very true to me, the way my perception of time has changed so much since we left the city behind with all its traffic and deadlines.

“Everyone succumbs to finitude…Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.” (pg. 198)

We are never so wise as when we live in the moment.

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I am boundlessly grateful to finally understand the pleasure of living in the present.

Romantic Expectations & Reality

So I’m watching some show on HGTV, and the woman who’s looking for a new home says, “I’m looking for a home that feels magical when you walk in!” From this brief comment I launch into my own version of a song from this 1965 Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella television special.                       Sure, you remember it, don’t you? With Leslie Ann Warren?

I LOVED THIS SHOW AT AGE TEN! I memorized the songs.

Cinderella 1965“Magical, mystical, miracle, can it be, is it true? Things are incredibly lyrical, is it me? No it’s you. I do hear a waltz. I see you and I hear a waltz. It’s what I’ve been waiting for all my life, to hear a waltz.”

What a lovely thought, and how unrealistic can you get? I know Rodgers and Hammerstein were probably just trying to think of words that went together well, but instead they helped to create the most unrealistic expectations in a generation of young girls!

Mr. Right frig magnet

Besides the story, which promotes the idea of waiting for a prince to rescue you from your grim surroundings, the words of the songs, which have stayed in my mind for over 50 years now (!) suggest we will most certainly “hear a waltz” when Mr. Right arrives in our lives. And they say we don’t have brainwashing in the USA… No, we have commercialism instead! Just as powerful and encouraged by our culture.

To be fair, by the time I was more interested in looking for a partner, around 1975, this song by Jefferson Starship was popular, and it also promised miracles. 

Mike and Rasta in kayak 3No, I’m not saying that falling in love isn’t magical, I’m just saying the first time I met my “prince” in 2005, I didn’t hear a waltz OR believe in miracles. I had finally gotten past all of that garbage at age 49. I was now ready to meet a real person who had the self-awareness and emotional capability to love and give to others in their life. As it turned out, nothing about his outward appearance or natural talents were what I expected. No, I had no expectations of falling in love with a motorcycle man who knew how to fix things. But I went with my gut and inner wisdom. Good thinking Laura!

Mike on old tree up at build site 2014

Now that we live almost off the grid in rural southern Colorado, I have so many more reasons to appreciate his abilities to wire up the generator when the power goes off for days at a time. No magical, mystical miracles. I don’t remember hearing a waltz when he appeared, but I knew instinctively that he would help me make it through the rest of my life, with love and affection every single day!

Great Quotes From James Baldwin

If you’re like me, perhaps you read books by James Baldwin in college. Do you remember “Go Tell It On The Mountain” or “Nobody Knows My Name”? My Dad challenged me the other day by reading me a quote from him:

James Baldwin“It is nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                    James was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic who lived from 1924 to 1987. His essays explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America.

When I went in search of other information on James Baldwin, I found some wonderful quotes that spoke to me, some especially under our present circumstances in the USA today. Here’s a sampling:

Books Jame Baldwin

This is exactly why I wrote books about midlife confusion, and finding LOVE again!

Love by James Baldwin

Powerful and absolutely true if you want one other human being to truly know you!

 

creativity and James Baldwin

Precisely why I write!

ignorance and power James Baldwin

This of course reminds me of you know who, our present Liar-in-Chief…

And finally, for those who still feel “America, Love it or Leave it!”:

love America James Baldwin

When did I lose contact with my own culture?

Granted, I have had an unusual transition from my working life as an academic librarian for 25 years, to a new career as a writer at age fifty. At that time I began pitching stories to magazines and sold quite a few. I still felt connected with the world around me, and wrote about it constantly as the “Midlife Crisis Queen.”

Find Your Reason Cover smallMy focus then was on the experience of “midlife” broadly defined as that time between age 40 and 60, when we awaken into a whole new world of possibilities, a new and improved realization of do-overs before its all over. Midlife became an exciting new rite of passage for me, available for the first time in human history to boomers, and those who follow after us.                                                                                                                                                       Numerous women writers I know and respect have written about becoming invisible in our culture as we age. In my experience, this transition has been so slow and subtle that I have not noticed it as the years go by. But I am here to say that I now feel, at age 62, in many respects I can no longer see myself at all in our present culture.

Especially on television I see a culture that does not include me. The contradictions just keep coming, and sometimes I want to deny that this is my culture, especially when I watch the news. The definitions of words I thought I knew keep changing.

For example, in a recent interview with Kellyanne Conway, she complained about everyone judging her by the clothes she wore instead of her words. Hello Kellyanne, that is a battle women have been fighting forever. In fact, that is one the main reasons women became feminists! Did you miss that blast from the past?

I suppose most of these misunderstandings do come from the younger folks having no sense of history, or just a very jaded understanding of where ideas like feminism came from. How many Americans know that women didn’t get to vote in national elections until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920? Sometimes I wish we could give all of our elected officials a test to see how much they actually do know about our history.

Here’s another example: I would love to hear President Trump’s definition of “McCarthyism.” Would it include “the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper evidence?” McCarthyism is the practice of making unfair allegations especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism. This sounds a bit like Trump’s allegations that progressive protesters are getting paid to protest. Where is his proof? What has happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Mostly I am shocked and ashamed at how quickly we have gone from a nation of facts to a nation of “alternative facts.” And I fear most of our population does not know the difference. I am afraid David Brooks hit the nail on the head when he observed recently that President Trump continues to “take a page from the Fascist Handbook.”

‘Those who do not know their history, are condemned to repeat it.’

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a personal journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement homes:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado      Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!               Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Writing Skills: Short and to the Point!

writing-penHere’s a new take on developing your writing skills. I LOVE the way Kim Tackett decided to write 35 word (very) short stories. Go check out a few and then try writing one for your brain challenge of the day! I tried to do this yesterday and found it quite revealing!

Since I was ill for over a month, I spent some time thinking about why I feel guilty so much of the time. Even when I’m ill with bronchitis, I feel like a lazy bum laying around. I guess I got some SERIOUS brain washing growing up, about being “productive” everyday!

So I wrote:

How does guilt live so long?

From my baby days, and yet still alive and well today, surprising me — stealing my freedom and joy.

Away with all guilt. I’ll go far beyond your influence now!

Oh, if only my 34 words could make it so…

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                         A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee   (email me:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

 

Arrival: The pros and cons of seeing your future

One consequence of moving to a rural part of Colorado is the delays in seeing the latest movies. This has been a bit difficult for me, because I am a great fan of cinema! I admit my favorite aspect of going out to see a movie is to lose my present self in someone else’s life. I love the “fly on the wall” aspect of experiencing someone else’s reality, but in this case I felt like the canary in the cage. Funny, with my lifelong breathing difficulties, I have often compared myself to the canary in the mine in the numerous polluted situations I have found myself in.

amy-adams-in-arrivalLong story short, we finally had a chance to see Arrival last night, a quite cerebral approach to alien invasion. Number one I LOVED that the scientist, the linguist with all the answers, was played by a woman, and specifically by Amy Adams. I think it’s about time women played the smartest person in the room, and I’m also happy Ms. Adams finally got a demanding and serious role to play.

One of the points of this film seemed to be the greatly undervalued communication tool of emotions. By having a wise woman play the great communicator, I felt that intuitive wisdom as well as intellectual power were brought to center stage. This is a position I have fought for since way back when I hoped to become a college professor in the 1970s. I found universities so limiting in terms of valuing the whole person or professor. This is one of the primary reasons I gave up on that goal.

But the real point of this film is the simple question:

purple-rainbows

If you could see your future, with all of its phenomenal beauty and raw tragedy, would you still choose it?

This question brings up all sorts of interesting life contradictions. If I had seen my future in the past and tried to change one part, would the other parts have stayed the same? In fact, as I age I see almost every aspect of my life in terms of contradictions. If I choose this, what happens to that?

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Choosing to leave behind the lifestyle I had lived for most of my life a few years ago, was a very difficult decision for me. When you choose something life changing you are almost always crossing a bridge you cannot go back across. This filled me with anxiety. But the true contradiction is that you can never know what will come of this difficult choice, unless you choose something different and then see how it goes.

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                    A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)