Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Great Frontier ~ Crossing The Border Between Myself and The Outside World ~ And, Must You Live Like Others To Be Whole, Healthy and Free?

"I was able to approach the frontier separating me from others, to the extent of actually believing that I could sometimes cross over it.

"I measured my time differently, with all my body.

"I discovered what people are capable of, in other words, anything: sublime or deadly desires, lack of dignity, attitudes and beliefs I had found absurd in others until I myself turned to them. Without knowing it, he brought me closer to the world."

~ Annie Ernaux, Simple Pleasures ~
Translated by Tanya Leslie

I have loved the works of French writer, Annie Ernaux, for many years, finding them mesmerizing. Best-sellers in France they were translated into English and I am so grateful that they were. Her books are very slim, the kind you can read in a sitting, but don't let the size fool you, every word packs a punch. A powerful book on relationships, what we do for them, what we give up, what we won't give away, and our relationship to the world around us. This is of great interest to me, because it is, in many ways, lodged in the center of my being. The new frontier, crossing the border, invisible to you it is very real for me. You may be standing a foot or so away from me and I can guarantee you that there is a firm, invisible boundary between us. Very few people are allowed to cross it. I am slow to trust, and trust won is easily lost.

I will say, briefly, because I've dealt with this in therapy for more than thirty years, written about it, and processed it quite enough, and am well medicated and have a wonderful doctor, that I am now living a life that I am comfortable and happy with, having crossed over a line in the sand so to speak wherein I would not spend my life talking, for the rest of my life, about sexual abuse. I carry it inside of me, for certain, but don't think of it much anymore. What I think of, what I have to deal with now, is the fact that my abuse was the gift that keeps on giving, and while it ended when I was 18 (having started at 4) and I am now 54, it is long since past. The reverberations, however, will be a leitmotif throughout my life. I was abused by 2 men, not just one, and it wasn't pretty. That was the beginning of trying to find my way into life, fragmented and trying desperately to pull the pieces of myself together, over and over again. Being hospitalized numerous times for nervous breakdowns, and finally, 30 years hence, a string of diagnoses, five to be exact, have left me with a bit of a peculiar life.

I am much stronger now. I was never insane, nor psychotic, nor schizophrenic, nor many other extreme "mental illnesses," but I've got enough going on to make me have to go slowly through life, every moment I move through may reverberate for days, I may sink into my safe cocoon, I will disassociate from the world. I am intelligent and gifted in ways that some people would not understand, and I do not, I repeat, I do not feel sorry for myself, or bemoan my fate. and I won't let anyone else go there and say, "Oh, you poor thing. What a terrible thing to happen." It happened, just like there are many horrors in the world, our men and women either killed in war times or returning home forever changed, their world having been shattered. They can fix our bodies, but not our souls. I know there is some help for the returning troops, support groups and such, but the medical world does much better patching up broken bodies than broken spirits. The horrors done to me were done to my physical body, but the most damage, in the long run, was the fracturing of my soul.

I have had a history of getting hurt a lot, physically. I have a theory that, as often happens during abuse, my spirit flew out of my body, and for most of the rest of my days has been flying on ahead dragging my body bumping along on the road behind me. I have a mind/body split. To fuse the two would perhaps be one of the great triumphs of my life, and I feel that time is coming. There are some hurdles to cross to get there, but I believe that I am on my way.

I become terrified, as many might, when they are stuck in a comfort zone that feels as though it keeps them safe, while all the time it is keeping them from being whole. Today, I am working toward wholeness, even if in baby steps.

The last five years have been the beginning of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, even if I have to squint to see it, I am steadily moving toward it. I am at a major turning point in my life with some very significant changes on the horizon. Seeing my way through and to the other side will be a big part of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Yes, I become afraid. No, I do not let it stop me.

Many of you have followed my writings, some back to the inception of the cottage 9 years ago. You know about my life, living in a little cottage, surrounded by gardens, filled with plants, books, fiber art, and my twelve beloved animal companions. In a way it is a very magical world I have created, and it is a world where I feel I can be both productive, and feel safe. Some people are enchanted, some think I am an ostrich with my head deep in the sand. I am definitely not an ostrich, I am very well aware of the world and my surroundings, and yes, I have created a magical world that enchants and delights me, provides fodder for my writing and art, but more importantly, has given me a framework in which I can accomplish all that I believe I was meant to. Learning more and more about myself I have come to believe that the word "normal" should be thrown out of the dictionary. "Normal," for the most part, means that you follow society's norms, no matter what you really feel or need deep down inside, for fear of being ostracized, not fitting in, as if that were the answer to everything. I believe it has led to a world of "Stepford Wives" and those forced into two incomes just to afford the fancy houses and unbelievably expensive cars, memberships to the Country Club, and designer clothes. Now, I am not criticizing, I am making an observation. If one can live comfortably, is it necessary to have a brand new car? How many people literally work themselves into an early grave just so they can "keep up with the Joneses?" Again, it is just an observation, but a question I wonder about. And it's not that I think women who want to work shouldn't work, it is the women who are forced to work to keep up a lifestyle because society dictates that it should be so. I find this simply horrifying.

And so when the world worries about me, a single, divorced woman with grown children and a delightful grandchild, living simply, surrounded by my animals and everything else, I wonder about them. I wonder if they can even imagine the joy I feel, more often than not. I am not child-ish, but the fact that I have retained a child-like sense of awe and wonder, that I delight in blowing dandelion seeds as well as bubbles, all over the place, that I would rather dig my bare hands deep into the soil with no gloves to feel how friable it is, sometimes finding worms and sometimes tiny treasures, and that carefully planting a perennial that will gift me year after year with it's beautiful blooms rather than out shopping for a car that costs as much as our first house did, well, who is the world to judge me? I will leave the rest of the world to themselves, but I will carefully guard my privacy and my little oasis with everything I have in me.

Would I like to cross the Great Frontier? Well, I can imagine myself going out a little more, perhaps coffee with a friend, or the occasional nice meal out, but truly, I love my little home, and it feeds and nurtures me quite well right here where I am. And when you write with a parrot on one shoulder, a pug sprawled on the arm of the chair, and a big black dog stretched out across the ottoman, his nose on your knee, it's hard to feel lonely. No, I feel loved. And I have a great deal of love to give. I hope to be able to give it through my writing. I would love to be able to give it to another person, but there is only one person for me, and no matter what happens she will be dear to me for the rest of my days. For 6 1/2 years I have loved her, and when she said, "You are not your diagnoses," it opened a whole new world to me. At the end of the last piece I put a link to a heartbreakingly beautiful story about a little two-legged dog. I have a tiny black pug here who is 13 years old, deaf as a door and nearly blind as a bat, and yet finds her way around her familiar patterns and is my little "Peapod" whom I carry about like a baby in my arms and kiss all up and simply adore. Yes, Babs is my darling girl, incompetent ears, untrustworthy eyes and all. So what I have learned is that "normal" to me is simply who I am. As Whitman wrote, "I celebrate myself, I sing myself...." even if I am thought of as the odd woman on the hill who has been known to go out for the mail in that flamingo hat. Best to keep one's reputation up of being odd, I think. Don't let it slip.

So, will I cross the Great Divide? I will , in my own small way, infrequently, but just enough for me. There is no one right way to live or think or be. And no, you do not have to be like another single solitary soul to be healthy, whole, and free. Be yourself, your whole self, your grand and glorious, full, unbridled, wild and cuckoo, if you will, astonishing self.

The first thing I taught my tiny grandson to say was, "Grandma is goofy and cattywompus." I felt I should start him on the right track from the get-go so when things got too "normal" in the world, he'd always know he had a place to go.

Celebrate Yourself, Sing Yourself, I'm singing right along with you...

Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings to All,



Saturday, October 18, 2008

Solitude vs. Loneliness, and Creating A Fertile Foundation To Begin Our Long Journey To The Stars...

"Loneliness is the poverty of self;

solitude is the richness of self."

~ May Sarton ~

"What is needed is, in the end, simply this:
solitude, great inner solitude. Going into
yourself and meeting no one for hours on
end~that is what you must be able to do."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet ~

"If seeds, in the black earth, can turn into such
beautiful roses, what might not the heart of
man become in it's long journey to the stars."

~ G.K. Chesterton ~

My Favorite Rose, among very many in my
garden ~
Crepuscule ~ a very old Southern

I am writing to you again on yet another grey, rainy Saturday afternoon, this one, if it's possible, is even more peaceful and precious than the last. Long past the early morning routines and care of the dozen cottage animals, the dogs having been out not long ago, are now all sleeping, with soft puggy snores and my silent gentleman, Moe, lies quietly beside me. I listen to the stillness, and the air around me feels soft.

The question I am most often asked -- and I've mentioned this here before -- is "Don't you get lonely living alone?" The questioner poses this question based on thinking of me, as most have all of my life, as the married mother of three home-schooled children with a lively active household. Since my divorce, my children grown and off into their own lives, they see me adrift in a sea of loneliness with no one to talk to, and imagine me terribly lost. My answer to the above question is always the same: "I might be, if I had the time."

I always think this such a funny question because everyone who knows me well knows that I live with six parrots, five dogs, and Vincent, the beta fish, but since they are not "people" they seem to be discounted in most people's minds, or just more trouble than anyone should have to handle in the minds of others. They do not realize that caring for my precious companions is no chore at all, not the feeding, cleaning up after, giving medications and treatments to (I adopt the ill/infirm/or the elderly.), but provides a companionable silence, more love than one ought to be blessed with in a lifetime, and riches beyond compare. No, I am not lonely. I have come to the point in my life, at 54, where everything that came before helped prepare the fertile ground into which I now plant myself to grow. The solitude, the silence, provide rich compost, and I am growing and thriving. Too, I seek communion with all living, growing things, things most people wouldn't imagine.

Everyone knows that I am a longtime avid gardener, garden photographer, and garden writer. I have planted gardens everywhere I have lived, and in the garden at the house where I raised my children I planted 60 old fashioned, own-root roses, grown organically of course. I planted countless perennials, annuals, and flowering bushes and trees, and my husband planted a grape arbor, which I used for climbing roses on each end, and wisteria grew up through old trees at the back where the shade garden was. I plant English cottage gardens, topsy turvy, lush, too much which is quite enough, perfect in it's way. I crave color and fragrance and need it as much as the air that I breathe.

And yet... the tiny things I bring indoors to tend are just as precious to me, along with my ever growing collection of African violets. My grandmother grew the most beautiful violets. They were everywhere in her little apartment after Grandpa died. For some time now I have been rescuing violets. (Leave it to me to rescue anything that nobody else wants!) You know in the grocery store the basket with the little pots of violets, blooms long gone, and the poor little plants looking raggedy and half dead. I've bought all I could bring home the last few years (at about 50 cents apiece instead of the $4-5 blooming plant), and nursed them back to health. One can't rush an African violet. They grow slowly, but in the end you are rewarded with the most beautiful, almost heartbreakingly tender little plants. I have now moved into ordering leaves of rare varieties. They will take years to grow into lush plants, but where am I going? Why is the world in such a rush, always? The "I want it, and I want it NOW," attitude simply doesn't apply here. We live in a fast food world whose inhabitants have come to expect that if you can't have it fast it's not worth having. That would never play here. I will wait years for my little violets to grow, and I have been richly rewarded.

Little grocery store foundlings, most having
grown quite large already. These are planted
in some of my collection of vintage teapots.(I
especially love vintage enamelware.) They
have already bloomed and will bloom again
when they are good and ready!

This violet, once a grocery store orphan, has

grown roughly five times it's original size, and
blooms like mad almost all the time. This is the
second blooming in a very short time, and the
previous blossoms were in such abundance
took my breath away!

One of my new rarer violets,
'Whirligig Star.'
The tips are pinker than you can see in the
picture and it is so lovely. These are just now
getting a good start. Such a delight to an open
heart, where small things bring the deepest

When 'Neon Violet Meteor' started to bloom
it absolutely shot me up over the moon! When
this violet is a large plant it will be a show-
stopper! Just imagine...

I am quite proud of what I have accomplished in this last year. Last summer I bought the most outstandingly beautiful coral colored pot of impatiens with a tiny dot of yellow at the center. Most people treat impatiens here as annuals. It is said that they will not grow indoors. I have sadly seen beautiful impatiens die off in frosts for too many years. Last year, on the eve of our first frost, I boldly brought my gorgeous plant in, and immediately planted the mother plant in a bigger pot with fresh soil, put her in a sunny window, and kept her watered and fed as needed. Not only did she flourish, and bloom ceaselessly, but all winter into early spring I took countless cuttings which root quite easily in water, and finally, with a great many rooted cuttings, made another basket of impatiens. They have grown so big and flourished so beautifully over this summer, they will soon come in before the first frost once more and will turn into a great many new plants in the year to come. I have also done the same with one of my beloved fuschias, but I didn't get them in fast enough and one died, the other having but a few living branches. I brought them in, nipped off the living bits, babied and nurtured them, and I have one little basket of a deep purple with brilliant pink bells and cream tips in a small basket hanging above my kitchen sink. It is small yet but has had several lovely little blossoms. I stuck the remaining sprigs in with the impatiens and they have grown well. They, too, will have offspring this year.

The mother plant, at least 4 times larger
than last year's nursery plant...

Her baby plant, now getting unruly, which
began as a great many tiny sprouted cuttings
planted in one pot and put outside late spring.
The baby is about to get a good shaping and
will gift me with many babies for new plants,
as will her mother...

Ah, but my newest experiment is just the most incredible delight to me, and most of you will perhaps think me silly. Weeding my patio plants tugs at my heart, because the little plantlets of who knows what, for the most part, are living, growing things as well, but weed we must. However, in a giant barrel that holds an enormous aloe plant which I use readily for burns and other applications, an abundance of clover seems to like to grow. They look like tiny magical little plants and you can just imagine a wee little Leprechaun hiding underneath the sprawling green leaves. I gently lifted a number of them out, brought them in, and planted them in a tiny old teapot whose lid is long gone, and they are flourishing on my kitchen windowsill. I have just cut them back because they were tall and hanging over. Just imagine! I might, at some point, find a four leaf clover! I am about to go bring in a great many more and start another pot or three before the cold comes and they are gone. These tiny plants are fairy plants, full of magic, and I can dream looking at them while I stand at my kitchen window washing dishes. This is what living alone in the beauty of silence and grace does for one. It opens one's heart, and vision so much wider that it is possible to see and hear and delight in things that others pass by, or toss out with disregard. As Annie Dillard wrote, "Everything, every possible thing, is holy." Yes Annie, you are so right. A rock, a lizard, a tiny bright green tree frog, a bumpy little brown toad hidden in the leafy wet garden, a snoring pug, a grey parrot on your shoulder nuzzling your cheek, a dear old book, like a long lost friend, once found again is a grand reunion. Am I lonely? How could I possibly be? I am filled with reverence, and gratitude, for all of the daily miracles around me, full of potent possibility abundant.

Can you see the tiny leprechauns
hiding in the leaves? I hear them
whispering when the lights are out.

As I took the dogs out before night fell, I was dazzled by the blooms on this mandevilla. I'd thought it had died last year, and it started growing very late. It will be full of blooms just as frost hits, and it will die back down, but I will wrap it this year to give it a better start next spring. Isn't it lovely?

And while the dogs were meandering about I took an armload of cuttings from the pothos plant. This, too, is a wonderful story because right after I moved in here, in April of 2002, I found, again in a sale basket in the grocery store, a brightly painted mug with adorable cheery snails painted on each side holding a little pothos plant in it. Well, I brought it home (The mug is beside me here on the table filled with Prismacolor colored pencils!), repotted it, and then had to keep repotting it, as the vines grew all over the inside of the cottage. It was enchanting. Betwixt and between the vines draped everywhere were little starry twinkly lights, and it was a sight to dream on. Alas, a big white bird named Blossom, the Greater Sulfur Crested cockatoo, came here to be rehabilitated and found a home with me, and in the process, her cage being a little too close to where the pot sat, she nipped off the bottoms of the long vines. I actually cried, then picked myself up, dusted myself off, and my friend Jeff helped by replanting the plant in a half barrel that nearly took over the world outside. I brought in the cuttings and made several vases full and filled an old vintage coffeepot to overflowing with these magical vines. Magic never dies! It just gets repotted or put in water to root!

And then of course there's the bamboo. I once, about 3 1/2 years ago, bought a tiny little bundle of sprouted bamboo shoots, a handful only 3 inches high. They have taken over the place in every kind of bottle (in water), in the beta fish bowl, and in just about everything you can imagine. Some are four feet tall!

These have grown, in cobalt blue wine
bottles, in water, from my counter to
the top of my kitchen ceiling around
the sink on both sides. Such a glory!

This little bamboo plant
is planted in dirt in a very
dangerous spot! Flamingo

Finally, our lives are what we make of them. For me, the glass is always more than half-full and I look at the world through rose-colored glasses. And no, I'm no ostrich with my head stuck in the sand. I've watched the debates, I'll be voting, I know that wars rage on in the world, hunger, poverty, disease, and more, and that has always been so and always will, sadly, but I believe that if we do what we can, in our own small corner of the world, we can spread great joy, kindness, love and, yes, a bit of magic that will light the way, not only for ourselves, but those around us. If we all try we can light the world and each, in our own way, make the world a better place to be.

It is in the spirit of gratitude, to you, dear reader, for even being here to share these thoughts with me, that I shall close. I will go in and look out of my kitchen window, and gaze and dream and let my thoughts collect like raindrops in a rain barrel, and after I've eaten my late supper, I will tip the barrel and more words will flow onto the page as I work on my book, sleeping animals around me, and sink into the spaciousness of this peaceful Saturday night. I have meandered through the day writing this piece. It has accompanied me on my journey through this day. Now I will peer out through my kitchen windows, and see what I can see.

Have a beautiful week ahead. The little ones and I will be thinking of you, and if you feel an airy brush of silky warmth wrap around you for a second and then whisk away, you will know that you have just been touched by the prayers and loving energy I send out to everyone everyday. Each one, reach one. Prepare a fertile ground, and grow like wildfire...


Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Love Rainy, Puggy Sort of Days ~ And, How To Start Every Day Out Happy...

I was in love with the whole world and all that lived in its rainy arms.

~ Louise Erdrich ~

Newest rescue pug, Harvey...

Yessiree, it's a hard life for a pug around here which you can easily see in the picture above. Harvey is the newest and fourth rescue pug to come, and has made himself at home. He has his special places, his toys and favorite blanket, and he sleeps on the bed with me at night with Sampson who, as you can see, is also having a rough day...

Of course, Coco is a ball of fire, as always...

... and Moe is full of gusto ...

But at least I can always count on wee little Babsie, the party girl...

As you can see, she's the life of any party...
(And yes, she's really wearing the hat, which
I actually made for a handmade doll...)

But more often than not she is slow getting up and just wants her latte and The New York Times...

... but once she's had her latte and is fully
she's just her darling little puggy self...

As for me, on this rainy Saturday I plan to update blogs, work on my new 'zine which will be out by January, work on the Magic Carpet that I am crocheting which will be a smooth ride once felted (You'll be able to see this piece later today on my Art For Joy blog.), and I plan to just mosey and meander through the day.

I have been a little down lately, and I decided to take things in hand. The last few days I have gotten up, taken care of all of the animal's needs, made my latte, and put on a 30 minute video, one of my all-time favorites, The Grand Old Lady Of The Blues, Alberta Hunter, doing a concert at the Smithsonian Institute. She was in her 80's and still singing at night in a club and is the rockin'est, rollin'est old gal you ever saw. Alberta was born in 1895 and died in 1984 and she was pistol and a half. This video really gets one up and goin' and happy all over the place. I sing to all the songs, Henry, my African grey, does his best to sing along, and he and Blossom, the cockatoo, does too, with Henry stepping from foot to foot and bobbing his head up and down, really gettin' into all that jive. You can't possibly watch this video and not end up smiling, singing, dancing, and clapping. She's saucy, lots of fun, and really gets the audience stirred up. You should all run to and get this video and her c.d., which I ride around in the car singing to, startling the person in the car next to me no end. The video is here ---> (Click on image)...

... and one of the greatest c.d.'s of all is here --->

"Amtrak Blues"

Yes sir, Alberta has gotten me up and going many a down day, and just for fun otherwise. You can get both of the above on amazon used (and even new at low prices), if you like. I'm not profiteering, just wanting to share some fun. Why, many's the day my dishes wouldn't even get done if I I didn't put that c.d. on and sing and swing with that randy old gal. And if you've got a parrot or six like I do here, they'll be dancin' and singing the blues right along with you too!

I'll close here because Solomon, the Blue Crown Conure is chattering and clucking to himself so loudly and non-stop, I can't hear myself thinking much less try to write. I think it's time to crochet...

Sol the Doll...

Happy, Rainy Saturday to you all. I hope you're having as lovely a day as we are here...


P.S. It's evening now but I just had to share with you a link to the most beautiful, heart-warming story of a little 2 legged dog who was all but given up but rescued by a wonderful woman who taught him how to walk on 2 legs and lead a wonderful life. His name is Faith...