Saturday, January 12, 2019

I Love the Same Things...

November 9, 2018 from Vera Road
Coming home at sunset on a November night, I stopped to take this photo of the moon. It almost impossible to see the tiny sliver of moon but it is there. In person, it was singularly beautiful.

This is a view I have seen a thousand times since I moved here. Sometimes it is the Evening Star adorning the fading day with a brilliant diamond point, reminding me that Heaven will not be more beautiful to me, I swear. How difficult it will be to leave this earth behind when the time comes...

January 7, 2019 from I-70

I drive my daughter crazy - well, not just my daughter - but she does not understand that the same old things feed my spirit. I will listen to a CD a hundred times, each time falling deeper into the energy and artistry of the music. I am not a musician so I do not hear music the way a musician hears it, I assume. It is like falling into a mandala or sinking into a dream for me. I listen until I can feel exactly what the artist meant. It is the only way to listen to Bob Dylan. I had to get old enough to hear some things in his music. The first time I listened to "Going to Acapulco" I heard he wished he cared. I guess a good song is like a good painting - you live with it and always find something new in it. The ordinary is anything but ordinary.

I have a deeply held appreciation for the sunset behind the hills in my valley, especially the clear evenings when the long shadows of the hills and the waning light hide the twenty-first century disturbances that erode the natural beauty of this place. The Native Americans lived here for centuries and this valley was untouched in its pristine beauty for all of that time. A slow lowering of the light brings a timelessness to the valley that resonates in my spirit. I love it every time. I always pause, memorizing all of it. The Buddhists say we die and go into the bardo where we await rebirth. Our memories are lost between lifetimes, except for the tiny spark that carries from one lifetime to the next. I do not want to forget these things though I assume it is a mercy that we cannot recall one lifetime to the next. The longing would kill us.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

There is Always More to the Story

My friend Patty was a true healer. People came to her Lodge to earnestly pray for healing for themselves or their loved ones. Some people were dying when they came to her. Western doctors had told them it was time to get their affairs in order. One man had been given the last rites. He had been sent home to die. After his family went into Patti's Lodge, he recovered to spend one final year with his family. They even took a last vacation together. Some people recovered entirely and are still alive today. She herself left this world too early, leaving behind a grieving family and an enormous circle of broken-hearted friends strung around the country and the world.

Somehow I did not know that she was terminally ill. I only knew that she was in the hospital and her son was holding Lodge for her. When I got to the hospital, I was shocked and deeply dismayed. How could I have not known she was this gravely ill? I considered her my best friend. She had adopted me in the old way, so we were sisters. But somehow no one had told me the true nature of her illness. Maybe everyone assumed I knew. She was on life support. We could not speak to one another but the nurse assured me that Patti could hear me. I am certain I did not have wit enough to realize I was speaking to her for the last time in this life. All I could think of to say was that I loved her.

When I left the hospital, I went to her house. I walked in the back door like always, right into that wonderful cluttered mess of a house smelling of sage and sweet grass and essential oils and good cooking. The house was alive with her energy. But beyond that, it was as if she was right with me, looking through my eyes. I looked around her home, seeing the paintings and artwork on the walls, the beloved house plants, bookshelves and furniture covered with books and photos and items from a rather unusual lifetime. In addition to feeling my own grief, I was acutely aware of her deep mourning over possibly leaving this lifetime so unexpectedly and so soon. I felt how desperately she wanted to get out of that hospital bed and come home to her life. I felt how desperately she wanted to finish raising her youngest son, B. I almost buckled under the weight of her immense longing to see him raised to adulthood. I have never felt another's person's grief as acutely as I did in those few moments standing in Patti's house right then.

Later that day her family made the decision to remove Patti from life support. That night we gathered in the Lodge, all of us packed together to pray on behalf of a woman who had given every single one of us the means to heal ourselves and heal our lives. We each humbly asked the Creator to heal Patti. After the Lodge and sharing one last big meal together on her beautiful old dining table, her son said he was going to see his mother and we were welcome to come with him. It was late - well after midnight - and we were all red-eyed from crying and from being in the Lodge. We were bedraggled and quite likely seemed high. The hospital staff said nothing as too many people came into the ICU to speak to Patti. Each of us had a few moments to speak quietly to her though she was unconscious. I am sure we were all thinking she would recover the way so many others had recovered. She died the next afternoon. Someone called to give me the news.

In my grief at losing the only person I had ever considered a sister, in attempting to come to terms with the loss of someone who was an actual light in this dark world, someone who genuinely helped others, I was at a loss. Did Patti ever know how much I cared about her? Did she ever know how thankful I was for her in my life? Had I ever done anything to repay, even in the tiniest measure, the wonderful things she brought into my life?

*******

One of the best things about having horses is that you can see them at any time of the day or night. You can have their big, equine, gentle comfort around you if you are grieving. Honestly, horses do not like to be around if your emotion is too jagged or too raw. They are sentient beings and their bodies are like big, beautiful emotion radars. While they never wanted me to lean on them to cry, they would stand quietly close by. One silent winter night, I was on the little ridge where the "barn" sits, grieving over Patti, my gentle horses nearby. It occurred to me that Patti's sons would no longer have the benefit of their mother's prayers in this world. There was something I could do to honor the memory of my friend and sister. Every time I prayed for my own children, I could pray for her sons as if they were my own. This idea brought me some small measure of peace and I spoke into the silence, telling Patti that I would do this on her behalf for the rest of my life. Across the winter pasture a breeze picked up. I could hear it making its way across the tall grass until it was all around me and the horses - a gentle, steady, pleasant breeze lifting my hair and drying my tears. I do not know if it was Patti who answered, or if the Creator simply took pity on me. It was pleasant and it was deeply comforting.

The rest of the story...

When I first met Patti, her youngest son B was seven or eight. I had written a thank you note to Patti, so I wrote a separate letter to B, thinking it would be fun for a little guy to get his own letter. He wrote back, including a picture he had drawn and a photo of himself with a dog on a recent hike. It was unexpected and so cute. At the end of the letter, in his childish handwriting, he post scripted "Write back".

About a year after Patti was gone, B and his older brother came to my farm to build a Lodge here. B's older brother made it a certain way so that we could all go in together, otherwise he and I would not have been able to go in together. I have photos of the two brothers, smiling and happy together on that day. As time went on, I eventually lost track of B. Life moves on and people are busy. He was a young man off in the world. I always believed that someday when he had settled down, I would catch up with him again in some way or another. Unfortunately, B was eventually on the streets, homeless and wild. Almost inevitably he came to the attention of our "justice" system. It was Facebook that served up the missing link. Someone had posted his prison address. I wrote to him immediately and immediately received a reply. At the bottom of the letter in his now masculine handwriting were the words "Write back". To this day, that is the only thing he has ever truly asked of me.

I eventually went to visit him in person. I was shocked to see the man he had become! Though the last time I had seen him, the day he and his brother had been here to build the Lodge, he was much taller than I, he was still a very young-looking teenager. Always in my mind's eye he is that cute little curly haired boy I first met. To see a tall young man with long black braids was a shock! Of course, what did I expect? He was in his early twenties by then. Little boys grow up! I did not cry but I almost did. Patti could sometimes see into the future and I wondered if she had ever seen her son as a grown man? I wondered if she knew he was going to be tall and handsome... and that he would scare the bejeezus out of white people by simply being a big Native American man? Before she died, she had seen that B's life would be ruined in the city. She tried to warn B and his brother, but sometimes life just does not roll out according to plan.

I do not believe B's life is ruined. I cannot see into the future the way Patti sometimes could but I think he has a destiny to fulfill. All of the personal suffering he is going through serves a reason that will eventually become clear to him. I may not live to see that part of his life. I wish I could do more to help him but there is not truly anything I can do. He will soon be 30 years old. The majority of his twenties has been spent in prison or jail. Sometimes to me he seems like a man misplaced in time. He does not seem to possess the most common skills he needs to navigate through the morass of rules, or maybe it is because they are not important to him. He is smart, quick witted, funny, and so damned tough. I give thanks every day that he is a big, strong man. If anyone wants to physically hurt him in prison they are going to pay dearly in the attempt. He is mentally tough. He was In the hole for months. I wrote to him almost every single day while he was locked up in isolation. It was the only thing I could do. I contacted the ACLU, hoping for a way to get him out of there. The ACLU man told me that Kansas typically does not send people to the hole for "no reason" but he said Kansas keeps people in isolation far beyond what he considered necessary, legal or humane. He said there was nothing he could do because B has a long list of prison write ups. B does not follow the rules in prison either. I read other inmates' records of breaking prison rules. Some of them are shocking and violent, even disturbing. Nothing violent or disturbing on B's records, just a LOT of rules breaking.

For whatever reason, B's course in life right now is right through the thick of prison and parole rules. The bright light that was still shining in B, even after years in prison is fading. I just "visited" him for 20 minutes via a video screen. I could see that this latest round of jail time was wearing on him and not in a good way. Yes, he committed a crime when he was young and foolish and homeless. If he had been able to follow the rules and pay the fines, I believe he would have not been sent to prison in the first place. Hard to manage your life if you are homeless, however. None of his crimes have been against people nor have they been violent. Because he was on parole and a convicted felon when he was arrested with a pocketknife, his bail is now set at $25,000, the same as if he had a gun. He has no history of ever harming another human being. He is a Native American man, covered with tattoos. He scares the shit out of white people. Even if I were the richest person on the planet, I do not think I could help him. He is on his own path and only he can read the map. All I can do is keep him in my prayers. I believe he will eventually get things ironed out. He will make the right decisions and take the right steps. I can see that much of the future.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

What A Life I Have

I am late with my traditional season greetings from my little corner of the world!

It was quite a year.

This is going to meander around but it will eventually come to a point. Bear with me...

I lived most of my entire adult life in a constant state of work-related stress - getting ready for work - getting the kid(s) to bed so they could be pried out of bed in enough time for me to get to work on time - constantly rechecking the lists in my head whenever I had work-related travel:  a. kid related b. animal related c. home related d. work related e. repeat ad infinitum.

How did I ever manage to do EVERYTHING? All the time? By myself? Wow. I lived with constant stress. It does not mean I never had fun or that I did not enjoy my life. I just had a lot of stuff to take care of by myself all of the time.

One particularly low point... the crazy neighbors had finally succeeded in sucking all the joy and sense of accomplishment I had in buying my first home - no co-signer needed. The neighbors to the north would not let their bratty grandchildren play with my son, though they were in the same class at school. The neighbor across the road, incredibly high on post-surgery drugs admitted he had been spying on me since I moved in, with his binoculars. The tenants in the apartment building to the south parked in my driveway and parked in spaces in my backyard, all without my permission. I could not have cars towed from my property according the Topeka Police Department. I first had to send a registered letter to my neighbors instructing them to remove their property from my property - even though they never asked permission to park their junk cars there in the first place. And since I could technically still get out of my driveway, the TPD would not tow the offenders from there either. I backed across the neighbor's front lawn a few times and finally a hefty parking ticket put a stop to most of that.  It was awful to not get along with the neighbors.

My son had been diagnosed with ADHD and the school was pressuring me to medicate him, though he was only in 1st grade. He was a very busy child, for sure. My grown daughter was mixed up with a very bad guy - a thief, a manipulator, a liar, and a mooch. So, on top of everything in my family life, I was at war with my own neighborhood. As far as I knew, and as much as I could, I had tried to live in peace and mind my own business but I felt victimized in my own home. That was how I came to be steaming like a lobster in the awesome old clawfoot bathtub one day, about to the end of my rope all the way around. My son was having a fit on the other side of the door, screaming and banging on the door attempting to get the lock to spring. (He knew from experience if he pounded hard and long enough, it would eventually spring, god save me.) Normally, I never allowed myself the luxury of actually feeling the tremendous pressure of my life but for some reason, not even being able to take a ten minute break in the tub was the last straw. I prayed, desperately, right then. "What is your will for me, Creator?"

A voice spoke clearly into my left ear, "It is my will that you raise this child."

That would be the obnoxious little child throwing a spectacularly loud fit on the other side of the door, I assumed.

Not everyone hears from God when they are at the end of their rope, so believe me, I was grateful. Stunned, to be sure. It changed my life. Oh, the neighbors were still the neighbors from HELL - the old granny on the north poisoned both my cat and my dog, I found out after the fact. Raising my son alone was an enormous challenge because I did eventually medicate him, suffering guilt and doubt every single day! I was insulted and treated badly by some of the "best" doctors at Menningers because I dared to question their professional opinion, I guess. Fuck them. I wish I had just saved my son and me the time and torture, and saved those arrogant professional dicks a lot of time by just telling them to fuck off right out of the box. I wish I had told the teachers and principals to fuck off, too. Especially one particularly evil old bitch in USD 501 who taught fifth grade at the Science Magnet school. I thought she was going to succeed in giving my son a nervous breakdown. At semester I took him out of that sham of a magnet school, away from the nastiest old bitch of a teacher on the planet, and took my son off the meds and put him back in the neighborhood school. He did fine. Thank God for those few wonderful teachers along the way. (Beth Edmonds, you are a bright, shining star and my son was blessed to have you two different years!) We made it. Oh my god, it was hard sometimes to know what to do. I did the best I could even though I felt as if I were careening from one death-defying cliff to another. I often had dreams during those years that I was driving a truck at highway speeds but the steering required a tremendous force of will to actually turn the wheel, only narrowly escaping certain death... and to brake I had to stand on the brake pedal and apply pressure with all of my will and all of my strength. I was tired - ALL the time - for YEARS!

But we made it. All of us made it. My daughter got her life lined out in fairly short order after she left the horrible guy in the rear view mirror. Both of my children have earned Masters Degrees. They are gainfully employed and living good lives. I admire both of them very much. I cannot believe that they grew into such a fine adults considering the unprofessional, hit and miss parenting they received.

So, all of that to get to today, this spanking new year, Two Thousand Nineteen. I finally came to the finish line of my working life the third week of January, 2018. I did not officially retire until March 1, but I stopped going to the office in January, using my last paid vacation to transition to a life of leisure. I did not set any goals for the first year, except that if I did not want to do anything, I was not going to do it. I have rested. Napped. Slouched around in my bathrobe for days. (I can tend to the animals while wearing a bathrobe.) I have painted, drawn, slept, read, studied Buddhist books, meditated, visited old friends... but mostly I have stayed home, on my little "farm". I have enjoyed the sunrise from my bedroom window as the seasons changed gradually day by day. I have sat on the front porch in the delicious cool spring mornings with coffee and dogs, positively luxuriating in the absence of the need to go anywhere, let alone get there on time! I can sit in the hay at the barn and listen to my horses picking through their hay, absorbing their calm, contented energy for hours if I want. All they want to do in life is eat and hang out... maybe take a little nap. I sooooooooo get horses!

I am blessed. Mightily blessed. I have a nice little house, a car that is paid for but full of dust, oats and junk I am too lazy to throw away or put away. I have dogs and two horse persons! I have everything a human person could possibly need in this lifetime - well, except for maybe a cat. (I can have a cat if ever have to move to town.) It all worked out. All those long years of grinding to work - all those times of kissing ass because I had to - all those years of honestly doing the best work I could do for my company but letting things go to hell at home - all of it paid off and finally came to a pleasant ending. My mother and father are not here to see it. My mother was too ill to ever come to the farm. She would have loved my little house, I am sure of it.

I honestly do not know what happens to people after they die. Some believe in Heaven (and hell). Some believe they will live normal physical lives in a different dimension. Some believe in reincarnation and the balancing of karmic debt. The ancient Toltecs believed that our life force rises to the beak of a mighty eagle and is utterly consumed and only sorcerers, impeccable practitioners, escape this utter end. I believe I have memory from a past life when I was a young Native American man who was betrayed by his white friends in a tragic, heart-rending murder. I believe I remember being shot in the heart at almost point blank range, the betrayal crushing my spirit as my life force quickly bled from the gaping wound. I am not entirely certain if that is from a past life. It is a strange "memory" that does not fit with the rest of my memories or make any sense. But the emotion of it certainly feels real.

No one has ever come back from the dead to personally tell me not to worry. If I ever needed to hear from a dead person, it was after my father died when I was nine. I never heard from him. So, I do not know what happens when we die. Maybe no one knows. Maybe every single belief system is correct. The infinite universes are certainly big enough to contain an infinite number of possibilities. Maybe nothing happens to us when we die. My paternal grandmother believed we simply cease to exist. I can respect that because it certainly appears that way from this side of the grave. However, on the day of her funeral, off to the side away from everyone, I noticed a clear shaft of light in the bright sunlight and knew it was my grandmother taking her final leave of everyone she had loved so well for so long before being swept into the ultimate mystery.

I think my mother and father know all about my life. I believe that Grandpa, that genuine old cowboy, comes to sit with me sometimes in the cold winter mornings to listen to the horses as they eat their grain. He must have loved the clean air of still winter mornings the same as I do. Never a man who said much in life, he is silent in death but yet I can feel him with me sometimes. And maybe my parents have visited me a time or two. I once stopped on the corner to watch the sunset over the "sacred pond" and recalled fishing with my parents. It was not the fishing I was remembering but the feeling a child has when in the company of both parents. I had that feeling again - a fleeting few moments before it was gone. I think they were there with me, remembering fishing, too.

So, yes, I guess our dead family members must still check up on us, maybe even "drop by" for a little while. Sometimes the Creator answers our prayers. Sometimes we can slog along through life only to look up one day to realize that there was a light at the end of that long tunnel. In my case that light is a tiny little house in the bend of a nameless little creek at the bottom of a long sloping ridge. It is where Wally and Ginger live, the magic horse persons. And where Mattie and Jake live to bark and drive me crazy. It is home, and sometimes my children come here to see me and it is wonderful. I am not a smart woman, but I know when I have a good life!

Many blessings to you and yours in this New Year.
Peace on earth and good will toward some men - from the critters and crazy woman at Spiritcreek!






We are all becoming enlightened down on the farm!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Physical Gears of Time

Solstice Sunset
If a human being could be born with an innate realization that her life is fleeting and miraculous - that it is beautiful beyond all measure - if she were born knowing the earth is a magnificent physical gift from an unknown benefactor - then perhaps she would not waste long years worrying about things that do not matter.  She would know that life is the journey and the journey is the lesson.  On the other hand, if she were to pay better attention in school many things have already been discovered and presented in successive age-appropriate lessons.

I lived at Spiritcreek for several years before I realized the full moon is always opposite the sun in the sky.  Oh, I understood the phases of the moon but I had never spent any effort observing the mechanics of those phases in real life.  In over four decades of full moons, it had never occurred to me to turn to the opposite horizon at moon rise or moon set.  I spent long hours of my life watching the moon through a bedroom window, or through a car windshield, or from an outdoor vantage point contemplating the mundane to the sublime.  In wonder, heartache, loneliness, grief, and in happiness, excitement and anticipation, the moon had long been my philosopher's stone, my silent, mysterious companion.  I paid no heed to the waxing and waning moon advancing and retreating in relation to the sun's position, though.  My understanding of the phases of the moon moved from theoretical into practical observation in single flash of recognition.  Oh yeah, I thought to myself.

Human time-keeping grew organically from the observations of the moon and sun and the slow progression of constellations across the night sky.  We gradually came into awareness of when to move to warmer shelter, when to move away from floods, when the herds would return, when plants were ready for harvest.  This timing is intrinsic within our bones even though we do our best to ignore it with our unnatural 24 hours of light and noise. The movement of the physical entities in the universe is a cosmological time piece.  The spinning orbits are the movement of a clock measuring time on a scale we cannot even imagine though we have a word for it:  infinite.  

We are mortal here because we incarnate into a time universe, a ticking universe.  We each have only a short measure, an individual span.  There must be universes where time does not exist - it is where the idea of infinity originates.  Long before we knew the science, we recognized a year and saw that it was divided into four reassuringly repeating quarters.  Long before we were clever enough to build a machine for it, we knew how to keep time.  We are made of time, immersed in time.  We live and die by time.

This year I had the opportunity to celebrate the winter solstice with a group of like-minded gentlefolk.  We were meditating together just an hour past the local moment of solstice, blessed by the full moon.  The next winter solstice full moon will not occur until 2094.  It is safe to say I will not be here for that one, at least not as the me I am right now.  I have marked the winter solstice alone for almost 30 years, mostly because I could not find anyone else interested in celebrating this most fundamental passage of time.  It was a pleasant and unusual experience to share the solstice.  There were other groups of people also gathering locally and the world over.  Humans are remembering something important when we recognize this natural timing and attach no other significance to it except to wish others well in the coming year.

It is a good sign...
              

Solstice Moonrise

Monday, December 3, 2018

Maybe It Is Not That Much of Mystery...

I made a quick trip into a dollar store in Topeka this afternoon to get laundry detergent. I can never seem to remember to get EVERYTHING I need in one trip these days. There is always one thing left over to seed another trip to town. So be it. The good thing about needing only one thing is that I can go into the smallest store, saving wear and tear on my poor knees.

The older and weaker I become, the more conscious I am about my personal safety. Maybe I should no longer carry a purse. A desperate young man, or woman for that matter, could easily make off with it. Until the purse strap broke I would present the most determined, immovable object in the universe. I also have an aluminum cane that I would not hesitate using to beat some one's ass. (If confronted with a gun, I would drop the purse and hobble away, screaming. Probably cussing, too.)

I have thought about the possibility of being an easy target. I am not afraid. I am simply taking stock. When I get out of my car in Topeka, I pay attention to my surroundings. This evening as I walked toward the entrance of the dollar store, a young man appeared at the corner of the building. He was wearing a hood low over his face but he was looking right at me. Because he was a young black man, I castigated myself for even considering he might be a threat. He and I reached the door at the same time and he held the door open for me. I thanked him and briefly felt like a racist old asshole. I asked myself if he had been a young white man in a hoodie, apparently looking at me though there were other people coming and going in the parking lot, would I have even considered that he might pose a threat? I think it was the hoodie and being noticed by a young man and had nothing to do with race. Old women are almost invisible to young (and old) men.

After he held the door I was thinking what a nice young man he must be. It felt good that someone was considerate and kind enough to hold the door for me. I went directly to the detergent, made a detour around the candy aisle though I was seriously considering buying some delicious chocolate because, you know: chocolate! Then, I went directly to the checkout. As I was leaving, the young man suddenly appeared at the door and held it open. I was pleasantly surprised and said "Thank you!" There was another lady coming in on my right and he was exiting on my left. I said "Excuse me," to the lady as I stepped through the door, which unexpectedly slammed against me. I knew the older lady was behind me so I reflexively stuck my foot back to stop the door from hitting her. She sounded irritated when she said "I got it!"

What the heck happened?

The young man was walking ahead of me toward my car. Over his shoulder he said "I heard what you said about me." He was saying a lot of things that I could not hear well enough to catch. I was taken aback. The only words I had spoken to ANYONE had been the two times I had thanked him for holding the door. I said, "Sir, I didn't say anything to anyone." He continued to walk and accuse me of lying and whatever else he was accusing me of. I felt very bad. I called to him, "I can't hear what you are saying but I did not say anything to anyone." He continued to make accusations I could not hear.

Once in the car I had a few seconds to process what just happened. He apparently waited for me at the door so he could slam it on me. The older lady coming in was a black woman and maybe it was not even me she was irritated with. The whole event was a very strange thing. I have no idea what made him accuse me of saying anything about him at all. He was not venting anger directly toward me nor threatening me. He seemed somewhat hurt but there was no chance to discuss it nor clear any misunderstanding. On the other hand, in retrospect, it appeared as if he had targeted me from the beginning. But perhaps it just seemed that way. Our paths crossed so briefly, neither of us with a clue as to what in the other's life led up to the door encounter. He walked down Tenth Street, looking back to see if I was going to follow him? There was nothing I could say or do so I just came home. I have absolutely no idea what it is to be a young black man in America. He has no idea what it is to be a hippie chick who has suddenly found herself old and worn out.

I do not know how a single person of color can trust any white person in our country. That we get along as well as we do is a testament to our resilient human nature more than anything. I do not want to be thought of as a racist old white woman, but I am certain there are millions of old white women who look exactly like me. Why wouldn't a young black man assume I am a racist, or a liar, or a two-faced old bitch? What happened that caused that young man to think I was talking badly about him? Maybe more than 500 years of abominable cruelty and racism? Maybe the fact that racism is so bad in America right now that even the police are murdering innocent black people on the streets in full view of dozens of witnesses, then given paid time off before being absolved of any wrong doing?

I am sorry young man, whoever you are and wherever you are. I am so sorry for all of it.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The True Value of Old Friends

No one has any idea how difficult it is to grow old. It is not until you have finally turned the corner into truly being old that you begin to realize that it is going to be a far more difficult challenge then you expected. I am not old-old yet but I have a firm foreshadowing of the last stretch of life. It is going to be the steepest climb of all. If you are lucky, you have family, children, and old friends that are going to help you see it through.

Now that I have retired and have spent some months just simply "being", I have had time to reconnect with old friends. I am making the rounds to reconnect with people I have known for 20 or 30 years.

The first visit I made was to the home of my dear friend Jeanie. She was my Reiki teacher in 1994, and we have been friends since. She is in her ninth decade and is just as lovely, smart, and funny as she was on the first day I met her! She is the coolest "old lady" I know, and I absolutely mean no disrespect by that term. Indeed, it is one of honor, something afforded an Elder, a wise woman. She and her late husband Bob were the most liberal, enlightened "old people" I had ever met. Most older people I knew were closed minded, grumpy, full of concrete ideas, and energy bounced off of them. A human being with a liberal mind coupled with the humor and wisdom of life experience is a work of art. I fell in immediate love with Jeanie and Bob. I believe Jeanie has lived most of her life with an open heart. The person she is now is the result of living a loving, generous life, and what a truly wonderful resulting human being. Though we have never spent a lot of time together, the shared times sustain me. I am grateful for her warm, shining humor, and her good mind.

Far back in the day - after I had dropped out of college, had a child and went through a divorce - I somehow bumped into my friend Sharon. We were not actually friends then as we had little opportunity to get to know one another. My first memory of her is a young, dark-haired hippie girl authoritatively reciting Native American history. We were standing somewhere on concrete steps in bright summer sunlight. That is all there is left of that memory. Later, we were in a group that attended a Fleetwood Mac concert. The memories of her end after the concert. Some years later, a dark haired woman was hired into my department. We hit it off right away. For a week or longer I kept saying "You sure look familiar to me. Don't I know you from somewhere?" She had no memory of me. We compared notes of our former home town, and notes on any mutual acquaintances we knew in Topeka. One day she mentioned someone from the old days that triggered the spark in my memory banks! She remembered the Fleetwood Mac concert and her close friends, but I was just "some other person" who also attended. (This is the impression I make on people!)

For the next 17 years we spent every break and almost every lunch together at work. Interestingly, Sharon is likely the most far right political friend I have, and I am likely her most far left friend. We have steered away from any serious political discussion or debate for obvious reasons, but she does allow me to dis' Rush Limbaugh about once every five years. (You just have to make allowances for friends.) Every other topic is on the table and we have likely discussed all of them at one time or another. It is one of the best things in life to have an old friend who has known you almost forever. We only see one another about once a year now, but the conversation picks up where we last left off. Surely our conversations have been occurring in many past lives and will carry on in some future iteration after we have both left this old earth. (Everyone smoked a lot of pot at concerts back in the day, so she is forgiven for not remembering me at Fleetwood Mac.)

I met my good friend Ken in the summer of 1993. I had returned from a personal pilgrimage to Wounded Knee, South Dakota and to the Sand Creek Massacre Site in Southeastern Colorado. I visited those places to leave tobacco and prayers for the people who were mercilessly murdered by the ignorance and racism of my ancestors. In both instances, the Native Americans were under the white flag of surrender. It did not stop the US Military from treacherously and brutally gunning down unarmed elders, men, women and children. I had to go to those places to heal something in my own spirit.

When I returned from that trip, I rode my Harley up to see the Potawatomi elder, Mr. Leonard McKinney. When I crossed onto the rez, a hawk flew right over me, casting a large shadow on me and my motorcycle. Amazingly enough, when I left the rez by another route, the same thing happened - a hawk coming out of the north flew right over me casting a shadow on me and the machine. That marked the beginning of true magic coming into my life, which included meeting my friend Ken. I met him that fall when I attended Lodge at his house, the place I now call the 54th Street Rez. That also became the title of one his original Native American flute songs found on his C.D. Coyotes in the Orchard. (Buy Ken's CD here!)

It took awhile for Ken and I to become friends. Once we each decided the other was a trustworthy human being and worthy, we became good friends. He is a solid, bedrock friend. I have been in Lodge many times with Ken and know that he is impeccable when it comes to the things that matter. He is an uncompromising old Vietnam Vet. He is an artist, making beautiful Native American Flutes and drums. He is a musician who has played his flutes all over the world. Perhaps the most prestigious event was when he played his flute with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for three performances.

My kids know Ken well and he knows them. Ken is one of the few persons on the entire planet who understands and sincerely appreciates my poetry. He once told me, "I am right there with you!" I think we have known one another from past lives as well. I certainly expect him to appear in future lives. For the time being we meet for lunch a couple of times a year, and talk on the phone occasionally. I know if I needed anything at all, I could call him and he would do everything in his power to help me. I trust him and I hope we have many more years together, becoming the oldest versions of ourselves - our young Harley-riding, hard-partying, wild versions that settled down into serious spiritual contemplation and wisdom. Perhaps we will be the oldest old people at a pow wow some day and still laughing about things the youngsters have no clue about. A bedrock friend is the best thing there is.

Ken and I ate Chinese yesterday, but most of the time when we meet for lunch, it is to eat steak. Both of us are carnivores, but Ken married a beautiful vegetarian woman, so he has to have a fix of good steak once in awhile. I am his accomplice for devouring bloody red meat! This is done with full disclosure to his wife, as far as I know. The restaurant yesterday was decorated to the n'th degree for Christmas, with Buddha statues amid the array. There was an enormous Santa in the lobby, so large I did not notice it at first. When we saw it on the way out, Ken said, "Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is a new President." Come on, Santa! Ken has been good all year! I can vouch for him!

This is a short list of friends because there are so many more - so many that each deserves a chapter in the book I am never going to write. Bev, one of the smartest women I have ever known, has spent her adult life helping people find healing for their broken and damaged spirits. Sometimes life asks a lot of such people. I do not know how she gets through the tragedies she and her family have experienced. Her warrior spirit simply carries on with good grace and faith in the ultimate nature of our human lives.

My family friends, the Hastings, are a clan of opinionated, outspoken, hard working, very talented, cussing, loving people. I have known them for so long they that they are already into their fourth generation! They have always been there for me and my kids. I will never be able to repay all of their many, many kindnesses. I love them all dearly and their good humor, no matter what horrible thing happens, is the most worthy of gifts. Life is damned hard, downright impossible and tragic at times, but you would never know it when you are with them.

There are my friends from high school whom I have known the longest and loved the most.

There are people from work, including Mr. Hamm, a pseudonym because I do not believe he would welcome being identified in my silly little blog. He is certainly a keeper friend because he is one of those people who finds some things too funny to be contained in normal laughter. We have often laughed until our sides ached and we were crying. Only a few people are this way. We are rare, like white rhinos or albino crows. When we discover one another in the population at large, we cling together - often in painful laughter! He had my back at work and was the only reason I was able to go the distance those last few years. He is a good man. It is the highest compliment I can give to a human being with the Y chromosome.

I remember my dear Grandmother in her last years. She was sharp as a tack up until the final blow dealt by a massive stroke. Even then her good mind was coming back. She loved to play cards with a circle of women she had known forever. They grew old together. They were there for each other all their long lives as they survived whatever life brought them, when they lost children, as they lost their husbands one by one, as they survived the vagaries of life. She outlived most of her friends and spent the last years with no one to play cards with, no one left who knew her long history, no one left who knew who she had been, or how she got to be who she was where she was. It must have been exceedingly lonely for her. She soldiered on with an amazing grace of spirit, right until the last breath. She showed me how to go the distance, how I must behave when life becomes overpoweringly too difficult and I am at its mercy.

Old friends are the best things in life. They are medicine bundles, the magic and blessing from the Creator. I love all of my old friends, whether they were included here or not. Growing old will not be too difficult as long as they are with me because life so far has not been too difficult thanks to their presence.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What I Accomplished This Week

No. 1

While my iron-woman daughter was riding her bicycle over 1000 miles in Florida, and being recognized in the national publication for her sport as the top woman rider of the month, I was practicing my meditation techniques. Trying to relax my body even more deeply I fell asleep and dreamed I was snorting coke with a homeless Al Pacino.

What?

No. 2
It only takes a few times to teach Mattie a new trick.  She knows "Look at me" - "Sit" - "Where's your ball?" For some reason I used a gesture when I taught her to lay down, so I have only to make that gesture.  I taught Mattie how to "shake" yesterday.  She has it down now but she does it so enthusiastically that my arms and hands are scratched. Next on the agenda is "stay".

No. 3
Mattie and I have a serious miscommunication regarding the signal she uses to let me know she is ready to come into the house. She learned to bark at the horses from Jake. Because she is not a timid dog (like Jake) she discovered on her own that if she runs at the horses barking ferociously, they take off in a bucking, snorting stampede. It is a terrible habit for everyone involved! As soon as I hear her barking, I rush to the door and yell for her. She comes running when I call. This started as a way to keep her from chasing the horses but now it is the only way she knows to signal she is ready to come indoors. She is no longer free to spend much time out of the house due to this problem with the horses. Having a smart dog keeps a person on her toes.

The accomplishment here is that I finally realized that Mattie had trained me to let her in by barking at the horses.  ("I am not a smart woman..." - Forestina Gump)

No. 4
Working diligently to master retirement.  Sleeping.  Facebook.  Netflix.  Playing Zelda Breath of the Wild.  Texting.  Napping.  Puttering.  Minimal effort at art this week.  I finally thought of  a grand idea for the big painting for my son.  It is a very cool idea but not sure I have the skill to accomplish it.  It could be ugly.  Very easy to paint over failures, though.

With her trusty bike...