Raspberries and Toads

There are times when life brings together two words which appear to be totally unrelated. Toads. Raspberries. Friendships formed with nothing in common. The “odd” couple that defies the rules of engagement and cultural expectations. The bond or connection that is real and felt strongly, but can’t be explained because similarity or shared culture are absent. Trust me, raspberries and toads do fit together, so follow me….

My sister, who lives in Alaska, is fortunate to  have a “public” raspberry patch in her neighborhood.  She picks them, eats many on the spot, and brings some of the sweet and tart fruit home.  Unfortunately she blames her raspberry picking, and all the  reaching and straining, on a muscle pull in the middle of her back. Besides the thorny bush, there is a cost to picking raspberries! A few days after she told me her story I was walking on a path behind houses in my neighborhood and I spotted a raspberry patch in a “public” yard. I smiled and mused how many times I had walked past it and not noticed it. My hand reached for one of the raspberries and I smiled as I ate it thinking of my connection to my sister thousands of miles away.

So that’s the raspberries, but what about toads? Labor Day weekend I had family visitors and  we decided to walk through the sculpture park in Loveland. Walking at a leisurely pace we viewed and discussed each sculpture. There was a frog sculpture and the question was posed “What is the difference between a frog and a toad?”  My answer was “ You know toads have bumpy bodies like raspberries.” Whoa!!  There’s  the connection!  I know I have a million bits of memory stored just waiting for the opportunity to connect with something. Missing pieces are filed away just waiting to be needed again.

 

The connection between toads and raspberries is really part of a much larger connection I share with family. We are connected by blood, but what really counts is our connection by love. We walked at our own pace through the sculpture park and walk our own pace through life. One of us may lag behind, but family “waits up” so we can all walk together. If someone runs ahead we know they will circle around and join us again. Family does have an “I” in it so we are all individuals , but family is a indivisible bond.

connection :

c : a relation of personal intimacy (as of family ties) 

Breaking News

We have breaking news, this just in.….We are all going to die. Physical and emotional pain will happen to all of us. Some days are better than others. And truth isn’t truth.  I must confess that I get a little thrill or trepidation when I hear the announcement  We have breaking news.… I am a news junkie and I am speaking literally not figuratively!  I can ride the gym recumbent bike hard if I am focused on MSNBC on TV or on my phone. Sweat pours off me as I am focused on how f-upped the world is. I am incredibly biased against Trump and am very over-invested in his political ruin. There is a lot of breaking news about Trump. I know because I pay close attention.

Should I be worried about my news addiction and my obsession with the current, sad state of U.S. politics.?  I am a little bit worried or I would not even be asking the question. When I hear from my friends who say they binge watched a series on Net Flix,I feel better, but then I remember they did use the word “binge”and I realize that I binge on the news. I am insatiable for current political news so I am acutely uncomfortable if I don’t have access to it. What’s the deal?

If my focus is on the news, what am I not paying attention to? My mind is filled with news bites and headlines so it’s too crowded for much else. What is my emotevation——what emotion motivates me to bury my head in the news feed? Fear is a primary motivator for me, so knowledge, or current news is power over fear. Nothing happens in the Trump Administration that I don’t know about. I am informed, an expert, but I can still be surprised, shocked and disgusted by the news. There is simply no way to insulate and isolate myself from the “bad news” in my life. Breaking news can break my heart: my husband dies or my sisters get cancer, and I am way past the halfway point in my life. My dreams of being a famous author or a dancer are old news now. 

What if “breaking news” are also the moments when life shows me something new or I am surprised by beauty or joy? Am I looking for good news or bad news? This morning I saw a hummingbird flitting around a bush, breaking news for me and it was good news. I enjoyed the sight and felt gratitude for seeing the hummingbird. Then there was a cute dog to see, a smile on a friendly face and a nice breeze—all news to me. When I was a young girl I used to pretend that I was a newscaster, I had a desk and looked into the “camera” to report the news. Even then I felt the power of news. I wanted the truth to be told, to expose the lies, to talk about heroes and storms. Today I still want to know “What’s going on?”

Lucky You

My family and friends love to play Zilch, a dice game.  Zilch is 99% luck and 1% strategy. Know when to hold em, know when to fold em; win big…or lose big. Conservative players take “a bird in the hand”, and others willing to take bigger risks, “go for it”. Either way the dice roll is what you get. You can pray, put ju-ju on the dice and rub your good luck piece, but in the end it is just dumb luck.  What is dumb luck?  :the way in which something good happens completely by chance, without being planned or deserved.  So the part of this definition that really pisses me off is “without being planned or deserved.”  Basically I can’t earn dumb luck; I can’t control my way to dumb luck, and a mass murderer is just as likely to experience dumb luck as I am. Is this right? But wait, is dumb luck always “good” luck? Joe just happened to be standing under the tree when lighting struck the tree and he was killed. This  “completely by chance, without being planned or deserved” sad occurrence seems just as much dumb luck as hitting the jackpot in Vegas, of course with vastly different outcomes. 

Am I just playing with words again? This notion of good luck and bad luck feels very central to my angst at the moment. I tried very, very hard to bring some justice to my good friend who has been wronged by our HOA Board. Orson Welles said: Nobody gets justice, people only get good luck or bad luck.  My cynicism says my friend has the bad luck to live in an HOA where the Board has an adversarial approach to their neighbors. She did not cause the damage to her home, but she has the bad luck to face an unethical board. She had the bad luck to have a pipe the HOA is responsible for leak for a long time inside a wall, and eventually cause enough damage that mitigation required her kitchen be gutted. This after she asked them repeatedly to check the pipe because she smelled mildew and moldy smell in her cabinet. It seems there is no justice for her and nothing but bad luck.  If Mr Welles is right that nobody gets justice why not just give up and let the chips fall where they may. If Lady Luck is random is there any reason to seek influence with her?

Bad things do happen to good people, and suffering, destruction and distress are the result of  random tragedies. Hiding in your house with a blanket over your head does not guarantee that tragedy will not find you. The roof could collapse or an earthquake could rock your safe world. Do we make our own luck? If the universe is just a collection of random events, then we are not that powerful.  Maybe we can work hard to be in a place that can better allow good things to come into our lives. Maybe.  I think I may need to accept that uncertainty, luck and randomness are a fact of life, but I do have control over a very important variable: my attitude. I can choose to view negative events as catastrophes or as learning experiences. This sounds a bit hollow to me right now. I am not really sure if I could answer “Yes” to Dirty Harry’s question “Do you feel lucky?”

In the meantime these 2 quotes gave me a chuckle and I am so lucky I can still laugh!

Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.  R.E. Shay

I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?  Jean Cocteau

Lonely Hearts Club

No one ever wants to admit they are lonely, and it is never really addressed very much between friends and family. But I have felt lonely many times in my life.    Bill Murray

There are certain things that are usually not talked about, loneliness is one of them.  Who wants to admit that they feel disconnected from others, don’t fit in and aren’t popular?  But lately I am lonely, I can’t shake this feeling.  A ghost you can see through. I don’t register on the radar, there’s no blip for me. This loneliness is not a pity party; it is more visceral than the particulars of a good whining session. I am looking in the windows of other peoples lives, an observer, not a participant. Maybe I am scared because sometimes I am too comfortable being alone. I fear I will not be available or reach out to others, so I will never have another love relationship. I hold all of these conflicting feelings. In the meantime, I sometimes feel lonely.

Ambivalence is a messy feeling, a push/pull of emotions. Pros and cons don’t do the deciphering for me. Is it a moral failing to be lonely? Is it all my fault? Do I just need to unfold and shake myself out?  All questions I ask myself, to help me make sense of this loneliness lurking in the corners of my life. Is a male/ female love relationship the only antidote to loneliness, or is it even an antidote? That kind of love relationship is nice, but I don’t think it is necessary to relieve loneliness.  I am 100%, no one can “complete” me.

I don’t turn on the T.V.  when I get home in the evening, the noise aggravates me. I have heard people say they have the T.V. on even if they are not watching it so they don’t feel lonely. I do talk to my doggies a lot: “What would you like for dinner? Do you need to go outside?. They know when I am sad and do their best to comfort me. My special four- legged lovers are often easier to love than people. Love is Love.

I am convinced that loneliness sells a lot of records or DVD’s, CD’s,videos etc. “Lonely” has to be one of the words used most often in lyrics.

Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band  (Lennon and McCartney)   And bein’ lonely, makes you wonder why. (Neil Diamond)   Too lonely to fall in love.  (Neil Young) Hey there lonely boy, lonely boy.  (Ruby and the Romantics) Down at the end of Lonely street at Heartbreak Hotel.  ( Elvis Presley)   Lonely days, lonely nights.  (BeeGees)  Lonely without you.  (Porter Wagner) It’s a lonely man who wanders all around.   (Elvis Presley) You get the idea…

So many people share the feeling of loneliness. If they all got together, would they still be lonely? I feel less lonely.

Mountain Woman

I just got back from a trip to Crested Butte and I was thrilled to experience the beautiful wildflowers and striking mountains surrounding the town. Crested Butte is the crown jewel of the Colorado Rockies and the wildflowers are saturated with color. Blue. Orange. Red. Purple. White. The colors stand on their own and don’t apologize for being so flamboyant, but are best appreciated in bouquets still rooted in the earth. The mountain sides seem brushed with color, a lavender swipe there and a yellow swipe there. My phone was “click, click” with photos, but I was also very conscious of keeping my focus on the 3 D beauty right before my eyes and the memories I was creating. Susan, my best friend and traveling companion, and I were a little affected by the altitude. At almost 9000 feet, Crested Butte is about 4500 feet higher than Fort Collins, so we did have a bit of Rocky Mountain High. ( couldn’t resist)

We spent a night in Fairplay/ South Park—yes that South Park! After dinner we went down to the river to watch the sunset and check out the views. We were very excited to crash a housewarming party!  Well it was really a beaver dam-warming party and they were working like you know whats. We watched them glide through the water and carry branches in their mouths to their dam construction site. Beavers are actually pretty big and these measured between 3 and 4 feet from the tip of their nose to the tip of their broad tails. We hoped they would slap their tails in the water to warn each other of our presence, but apparently we were not threatening. One of the beavers decided to take a rest on the shore and we rushed (quietly)to get a better view and a photo. Of course the beaver slid into the water as soon as we got closer. The beavers put on a show that was better than T.V..   Meanwhile lots of fish were jumping out of the water and the sun was setting. We slept well that night.

Where were the best hiking trails? The locals had lots of ideas and just as many different directions to the same trailhead. Throw in afternoon thunderstorms and things got more complicated. One late afternoon we decided to go for a walk and headed to the edge of town to a gravel path and just kept walking.  “Green Lake Trail” the sign said and this was the “Just go to the end of this street.”  the locals told us about. We weren’t looking for it but we found it!  The trail thru the forest was breathtaking and we were so grateful for the quiet beauty. Yes! And I almost forgot, I saw a bear in the trees as we were driving down a mountain pass! 

Sometimes I just want to throw the fish I catch back in the water and ask for another that is more to my liking.  If I just keep fishing I will catch the “big one” many times in my life. My bait  is perseverance and hope. 

Writing on Writing

Threatening or welcoming, depending on my mood and inspiration, the blank page begs to be filled with paragraphs of inspired writing.  Sweating bullets, but not sweating the words I want. I love words, and vocabulary was my best score on all standardized tests. How boring to use  mediocre words when there are awesome words to use. He’s “nice”, but how about  he’s “pleasing” or of “good quality. Nice is just “nice”.  So how do I write? One. Word. At. A. Time. Teasing, demanding, and cajoling my brain and imagination for the perfect word. As we all know perfection is unattainable, so a “good enough” word is indeed “good enough”.

The tongue pierces deeper than the sword.   Hazrat Ali

There is one realm where words often fail: emotions.  I am “angry” is not the same as  “makes me want to hurt other people”. Whoever first said: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”, was obviously not in touch with their feelings. Instinctively, people protect their bodies when they sense they will be hurt physically, but words attack too quickly and  blows to the heart can strike without any self defense. Words can be lethal weapons when used to injure another or a relationship. We can all remember a taunt from a bully or words a lover used to end a relationship.  Some words are so loaded with pain or venom we don’t say the whole word like the “n”word or the “c” word.

Love is just a word, but you bring it definition.    Eminem

No matter what language “I love you.” is spoken in, the heart translates and cherishes the feeling of being loved. Words can encourage and comfort when giving up seems the only option. “You can do it. I’m here.” may be words that keep someone on the road to their dreams. Iconic speeches have moved our nation: “Four score and seven years ago our founding fathers ….” or “I have a dream….” both directed citizens to love each other and fight for what is right. Before these words were spoken so elegantly, they were composed and written on a piece of paper.  Words are powerful, double edged swords so thinking before you write or speak is better than having to eat your words and wash them down with regret. 

So sentences are words strung together, a piece of cake right?  A subject and a verb and off we go. Not so fast!  Some days I don’t feel like talking let alone writing. Maybe I just don’t have anything to say, so I write about “not writing”, or having nothing to say. I write angry. I write sad. I write happy. I write bored. I just write. Writing is good exercise for my imagination, I create pictures in my head and find the words to paint the picture. Some day I hope I am  inspired to write a masterpiece.