Friday, November 23, 2012

On the Edge

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all  kinds of things you can't see from the center.” 
 Kurt Vonnegut

        What do you think about this notion?  It appeals to me so much but I can't seem to put my finger on why the attraction.  That's me on the edge of that fire engine's 175 foot extended ladder.  It was  a demo for the school kids and they asked for a volunteer (adult!) to climb the ladder.  And so I did.  And I hung out there on the edge and experienced the adrenaline and watched the world below me.  I saw all kinds of things I could never have seen from my feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground place on earth.

       I am a huge fan of the ocean in all its glory.  The ocean sits on the edge of the earth.  I am spellbound by ocean breezes, depths of color,  dangerous cliff edges, and the potential drop to the sea. Scared but  alive.

    Sometimes edges have warnings.

    But, just as often, they don't.

     In everyday life, I encounter edges, places where you can see the end of something.  Sometimes, it is a storefront jumping to the sky or the edge of humor touching the edge of hurt.  It's common stuff but it is the edge.

      There are the times when the illustrious sit on edge with the commonplace.  I sometimes get the feeling that  expectations are on the edge of reality, ready to jump off and see what really is.

    Edges don't have to be straight, you know. Edges can be torn or undulating.  They can start and stop, appear and disappear.  Sometimes you find edges with cracks.  I think I find those edges with cracks on the most interesting days, the days when I am no longer sure of who I am, what I am doing, or where it is I am going.  Nothing is sure on those days, except uncertainty.

  It isn't very often but the edge can be soft and gentle.  It can feel warm and fuzzy, not at all sharp and, well, edgy.  It can feel like, if you were to jump off the edge, the landing would be harmless and maybe even fun.

    Edges don't have to be high up there like that first picture.  No, edges can be small but, if you miss a step, the edge can make for a painful fall.  And, when edges are small, you have to look more carefully before you step, lest you crush something of beauty.

     I don't know about you, but sometimes I make my own edges.  I create the excitement, the fear, the messiness, and sometimes I go over the edge and sometimes I don't.

      A week or so ago, I had a dream in which I was walking on the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Impulsively, I decided to climb the chain link fence along the edge (is there even a chain link fence there in real life?) and, yes, leap off the bridge. In the instant that I jumped, my self yelled at my body, "NO! THIS IS IRREVOCABLE!"  Too late.  My body dropped through the air, sailing from the bridge's edge to the edge of the sea.  CRACK!  I broke the surface of the water, body snaping the cold, mind catching the flash of light.  What an edge!  Interesting end to that dream.  As I gurgled my way in the cold, murky Pacific Ocean, I thought, "Ah, but I am still alive!"

     Edges.  What do you think?  Do you like to stand as close to the edge as you can?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No Rules

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald 

          I wonder if I am alone in the following perception.  It seems as if I have a 20 year old, a 30 year old, a 40 year old, and a 50 year old all living inside my head.  Each of these individuals keeps watching the me who is around right now and they keep saying, "Really?  REALLY???? This is what you turned out to be?  We never would have thought this is where you would end up.  We can't believe that you appear to have forgotten who you once wanted to be."

     And I find it odd that the me who lives now has the perfect response.  I can say back to them, NOT in a mean, loud way, but in a very measured way,  "Just.  You.  Wait.  You know nothing, or really very little.   Life is not the way you think it is and you will discover things you never considered.  Let's talk then.  Let's talk when you have some more perspective."

    Perhaps that is why the above quote from F. Scott is so appealing.  It has such a forgiving tone to it.  It sounds so hopeful and so not judgmental.  I like hearing the words.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brothers and Sisters

     I have always defined myself, in part, by my place in my family.  I am the fifth child in a family of nine siblings and the first daughter of two daughters.  My sister is the eighth child in the family and we are separated by 7 years.  Our parents were married at the close of WW2 and we grew up under the strong influence of the Catholic Church.  Our parents remained married until my dad's death in 1996 so there were no step siblings or half siblings involved in my life.

    My sibs shaped who I am in ways that I can only imagine.  I know their impact on who I am today was huge and, frankly, they remain the most influential people in my life.  They matter  to me.  Growing up, I counted on them for companionship, for guidance, for goofiness, for friendship.  Who they are now and the struggles and joys of their lives today matter to me a great deal.  

     My sister, who shares my outlook on family, gave me this book for my birthday and I found it to be an absorbing read.  Really, there were no surprises in it but it was enjoyable to read and to relate to the families referenced.  The author, Jeffrey Kluger, grew up as the second child in a family of four boys (which later expanded to include two half siblings and a step sibling).  His childhood seemed so much more tumultuous than mine but his observations and documentation of siblings, in general, are interesting to me.  Chapters include discussions of birth order, how families change (the family I was born into is not the same family that my oldest brother, my youngest brother, or my sister, or any of my siblings were born into), 
the presence and consequences of favoritism in families, siblings raising siblings, and the ties that bind siblings during the adult years.  

     I know my brothers and sister would agree that we were fortunate to have each other.  There was support, comfort, and companionship in numbers.  I know that there were times when we each "got lost in the shuffle" and I suspect that the sheer volume of noise and personalities overwhelmed me and at least some, if not all, of my sibs (not to mention the 'rents).  It was easy to be overlooked and to stay quiet to avoid being seen when you didn't want to be seen.  It was also easy to hide in the shadow of a sibling or to delight in the friendship of a sibling.  

       My siblings are the people who have known me the longest.  They grew up with me, through little kidhood, adolescence, marriages, child rearing, and who will continue to stand with me at funerals until, sadly, there is only one standing.  We watched each other make choices in life and play them out.  I suspect one of the surprises of my later life might be the connections I continue to grow with my brothers and my sister.  

      As I noted, Mr.  Kluger's book doesn't really hold new information for me.  I've lived his book and maybe that's why I found it interesting.  Maybe you will too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What November Brings

I went out on a bike ride this morning but probably spent as much time admiring the November landscape as I did actually riding the bike!  I will bore you with yet more photos but it could have been worse.  I took 330 photos all together and spent a lot of time just staring at the wonder of November.

My Five Year Old Friend

       One of my all time favorite kids lives in my neighborhood.  Her name (coincidentally) happens to be Gracie Magdalena.  Gracie is such a cool little kid.  She is five years old and has life firmly in her grasp. She is a pretty child, on the small side for five.  She has a winsome smile and light brown hair generally captured in braids.   She is not a noisy child but rather an oddly reflective child.  It's not that she is shy.  In fact, she is not shy at all.  She is confident but never has to be the center of attention.  She prefers to watch and evaluate a situation before stepping into it but when she moves into action, she is self assured and engaging.

    Gracie embraces the world through all her senses.  Her sparkly greenish-gold eyes do not miss a detail.   She is happy to observe everything around her, especially faces and anything to do with light and color.  Unlike lots of kids, she never objects to car rides or having to wait while an adult takes care of some piece of business.  That kid will settle in and survey the territory around her, noting details, noting faces, seeing colors, detecting patterns and comparing them all. She might decide to share some observation but she doesn't have to tell you everything that she sees.  Sometimes, I think she just likes to keep her thoughts protected in her mind and in her imagination.  She is also an usually strong listener for a five year old.  Music can entertain her for long periods of time - with or without lyrics.  She's not so interested in the loud, big beat kind of thing but rather prefers music that evokes reflection.  Odd for a little kid but that's my pal Gracie.

     Gracie clearly prefers to be outdoors.  She is the kind of kid who wakes up with a grin and ready to go.  She is a little kid bike rider, a tree climber, a wave chaser, and a barefoot dancer in the sand and a tumbler in the grass.  She is all about up close looks at spiderwebs, dandelions, rocks, seashells, and cracks in the sidewalk.  She definitely enjoys using her half-pint hands to explore her  world, carefully cradling whatever treasure she is examining.  She is keenly aware of warmth and icy cold and will leap to point out sunbeams drifting in on the clear air or frozen water drops on her front porch.  I've watched as she twirls in the spring breeze, boisterously laughing as the wind tries to pull up her skirt, and, at the same time,  begging me to grab her hands and twirl with her.

   I asked her recently if she was afraid of anything.
   "Well, yes,"  she immediately replied.  "I'm scared of the dark.  One time the nightlight in my room broke in the night and I woke up and I couldn't see anything!  It was so daaaarrrrk!  (Can you hear her as she draws out the word dark?)  I thought I was going to be lost in the dark forever.  I started crying and mama came and found me and showed me that the light was still there - just broken.  But I don't like the dark.  Ever."

    I think I am really lucky to have Gracie Magdalena in my neighborhood.  She likes to visit and  always greets me with a wide open hug.  There's something about Gracie's presence that makes me slow down and remember what it was like before.  Before tension, headlines, deadlines,  and life's complexities took away twirling and time for chasing waves.  It might be good for me to watch the world more often through Gracie's eyes but I wonder how you do that when you are way on the other side of five years old.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And Then There Is November

    On the way back from the coast this weekend, we were treated to November's finest.  I have made it abundantly clear that October is not my favorite month of the year.  I am not saying that November is my favorite (not by a long shot) but I sure do like it more than its slightly older sister.  November's colors are more intense.  November holds the promise of leaving the sharp, electrical heat and light of October behind and taking on the more muted light of late fall.  I hate the shorter days but at least the light does not cut as much.  And, tucked at the end of November, is that sweetest of holidays, the holiday that just can't seem to take on much of the commercial mantle.  Sure, it's about food and that part does not impress me.  But is also, in my book, about a pause in the days, a pause to appreciate and to be with what matters.  And then there is the tumble into December but that is another post.

  Enjoy some of November's gifts:

Monday, November 5, 2012

She Is Powerful

      No, not me!  The Pacific Ocean!  A few weeks ago I attempted to entertain you with some photos from Pt Reyes National Seashore.  That spot is incredibly beautiful and it was fun to show you photos.  This weekend RR and I traveled in the opposite direction to have a date with the ocean.

       Ft Bragg is a fishing and logging town on the north coast of California.  Possibly you have heard of its more trendy neighbor Mendocino but I prefer to spend my money in Ft Bragg.  It is an economically depressed area but that does not take away from the ocean connection.  I have been going there regularly for about thirty years and feel as if it could be home.  In years passed I have camped on the Ft Bragg coast or stayed with friends or relatives in town.  In more recent years, RR and I have taken to staying in a motel at the northern edge of town.  This motel,  the Ocean View Motel, is right there at the ocean's edge.  You can leave the sliding glass door open at night (if you dare and I do) and sleep with the ocean's roar in your ears.  On Saturday morning, I was impressed with how calm the ocean was - nary a whitecap in view.  But then there was Sunday morning.  Oh my! What a difference 24 hours makes.  I don't believe I have ever seen the Ft Bragg ocean so violent.  Such powerful and high swells, breaking way out there and then breaking again closer in.  Amazing!

       I got to thinking about people who didn't have the privilege of growing up and always living within 45 minutes of the ocean.  I feel bad for them and what they miss by not having the ocean connection.  I can't imagine what that must be like: to have never seen the power of the waves or heard their roar.  I tried to capture at least some of the ocean energy in these photos.  If only I could have included the waves, the birds, the breeze, the fragrance that is the Pacific Ocean.

Waves!  Huge!

Surreal, if you ask me.

This gives you some perspective on the height of the waves.

More perspective.  I won't be going beach combing down there.

Foam with a veil of fog

I am always impressed with the many shades of blue in the ocean.

And there was no wind!  That was pretty surprising. With waves like these you expect there to be lots of wind.

Beautiful blues

Can you hear the wave hitting the rocks?

If only we could capture the energy in those waves!

More blues!