Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Present

It is Christmas. The Christmas Spirit burns much lower in my heart as the years roll by, not because I have grown cynical but because there are no small children in my life brimming with the magic of Santa. If I had it to do over, I would never trick my children into believing in Santa Claus as a real person. I would explain the significance of Santa in terms of being selfless and loving. Once you know there is no Santa, the depression never quite leaves your psyche, does it?

I stepped out this morning into the unseasonably warm weather to hear geese overhead. I scanned the sky to catch sight of them. A nice sized flock came straight out of the west, not far above the trees. They seemed to pause in flight for a beat and I wondered if they were going to land in my yard! The most irritating dog right now is Mattie. True to her dedication to being the best giant pain-in-assorted-parts of my anatomy, she began barking at the horses - those killer herbivores who live here and who were dangerously waiting for their oats. At the first bark, the geese shifted just a wing beat and effortlessly coalesced into two formations, their natural flight expertise carrying them over my house as if by magic. I accepted their blessing as a very lovely Christmas present.

All is peaceful and calm down on the old farmstead. Ginger and Wally, the Supreme Beings, are fat and sassy. Ginger gets to boss Wally around every single day. Mattie and Jake are happy and healthy but both are worthless as farm dogs. Jake barks at human beings, friend and foe, but Mattie thinks everyone is her next new friend. Jake barks at unseen critters once in a great while but Mattie barks at every molecule and rustling atom, non stop. And if I am not careful to keep one or the other constrained, they actually leave the farm for expensive and dangerous adventures elsewhere. So... two "worthless" dogs. What are you going to do?

I am almost two years retired and it is wonderful. Now I can sleep through the night instead of hour long increments of fitful suffering. I get to stay home in the peace and quiet all day long. No more acid reflux and very few migraine headaches. No ass-burn at all. Well, that's a lie. I have ass-burn at Mattie every day!

I have started painting seriously. I have completed six acrylic paintings. I continue with small watercolors and there is also a set of oils waiting in the wings. Each time I learn a little more and finish better paintings. (Sorry to the people who have received the first clumsy attempts! My heart was in the right place even if the paintings kinda suck.)

My adult children are doing well, though both live complicated lives. They are healthy and happy and most importantly, they are not axe murderers. Mission accomplished!

I continue to meditate and study books written by Alan Wallace and Mingur Youngey Rinpoche. It required almost a lifetime of preparation to understand these Tibetan teachings even though they have been made simple for the Western mind. The Four Immeasurables or cultivating virtues of the heart:

Loving Kindness - heartfelt yearning and vision for oneself and others to experience happiness and the causes of happiness

Compassion - heartfelt yearning that all be free of suffering and its causes

Empathic Joy - Delight in other people's virtues, successes and joys

Equanimity - Even heartedness, even mindedness and impartiality

The Christ came to teach us these truths, as well as the Buddha and countless others, known and unknown.

In the spirit of Christmas:  
Wishing peace on earth and goodwill toward (some) men 
 from the Crazy Woman, the Supreme Beings, and the Constantly Barking Dogs of Spiritcreek.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Life May Be Far More Mysterious Than We Know

I spent most of my adult life working to heal my personal "demons" through a variety of modalities including Freudian-style therapists, Reiki, sweat lodge, soul retrievals, AlAnon, Family Reconstruction, and a billion prayers. This self-improvement effort was certainly worth it as I have been happy with who I am, and quite peaceful and satisfied with my life for the last twenty years or so. I have dealt with everything in this lifetime that had given me trouble, and I am still plumbing the more subtle depths with a decade of serious mediation practice.

My daughter is currently studying several trans-personal methodologies with the goal of eventually helping people heal themselves. For her to earn a certification she needed volunteers. I agreed to a session designed to access and deal with emotional trauma. I had absolutely no expectations or preconceived notions of what might happen when I agreed to participate. I had no idea what, if anything, might come up for me.

The methodology is not hypnosis nor anything manipulative. It is simply an opportunity to stop and listen to the deepest, most silent information in our own psyche. I believe the calm and focused attention I have been cultivating in meditation made the session quite easy for me. The session begins with the willingness to feel in the physical body any sensation that may need to be recognized or acknowledged. After some minutes I began to feel an ice cold sliver of pain in my lower left abdomen. I did not recognize that sensation. The longer I focused on it, the more defined it became until it felt as if a long thin icicle was inside my body. My daughter's guidance was to stay with it until I could recall or otherwise understand the source of this strange pain.

I guessed it was physical trauma from the emergency Cesarean delivery of my second child, but each time I tried to match that feeling with what I experienced in childbirth, it did not agree. I relaxed even further and patiently waited to see what might eventually be revealed. Before long my entire abdomen was ice cold, freezing. I began to shiver. Following my daughter's guidance to wait, it soon became clear that I was feeling an ice cold wind in my lower abdomen due to evisceration. Then my right leg was suddenly missing from the hip. My mind searched for some context for these physical sensations that were so real and immediate though I was lying in the comfort and safety of my own living room. Slowly, very slowly, I realized that I was hanging suspended in the sky from an enormous parachute. A bullet or shrapnel had pierced the flesh of my abdomen and my intestines had spilled out. The icy wind I could feel inside my warm body was literally the wind blowing into the empty cavity of a dying body. Another impact ripped through my right leg at the hip and it was gone. I was not in any physical pain except for the icy cold. I knew I was dying. As I stayed with these strange sensations, I "recalled" that I was 17 years old and had jumped from a huge plane over Normandy. The entire sky around me was full of men hanging beneath parachutes being systematically shot by a huge army of guns on the ground.

I was no longer afraid of anything because I knew I was already dead and it would not hurt when I hit the ground. An enormous sadness filled my entire being and my 17 year old heart shattered at the thought of my mother. How dearly I wished to see her and be safe in her arms again. It seemed there was even a few short memories of how I felt as I left this earth behind. I was peaceful but the sadness weighed me down. That 17 year old spirit was pretty cocky otherwise as he answered a few of my daughter's questions. He seemed irrepressible.

So.... I did not cry in the here and now though perhaps I should have. After some appropriate leave taking of the 17 year old soldier, Phase Two kicked in. This time as I remained still, it was a pain in the right side of my skull that heralded another traumatic "memory". Soon, the pain became a crushing ache and I knew that my skull has been fatally smashed. I could not tell if it was from warfare, murder, or if it was a hunting injury. As I patiently waited for this trauma to communicate itself to me, I realized I was a middle aged Native American man and it was not important how the injury happened. I was lying on the frozen ground in the deepest cold of a Plains winter. I either could not move, or the blood had frozen my clothes to the ground and I could not get up. I knew that I had been mistakenly left for dead by my companions. Or perhaps they deliberately left me behind. What was remarkable to the me in the here and now was that there was absolutely no rancor toward my companions who so heartlessly left me behind. I was not afraid of dying. It was natural and peaceful though I wished I could continue to live. I knew my life was over. The trauma seemed to be from the painful, conscious awareness as I lie slowly freezing to death on the ground. It was a hard way to go. But once I was dead, I left this realm with a good and peaceful heart. In the here and now, I thanked the Native American man and said my farewell to him.  

I continued to physically shiver despite the warm blanket I was wrapped in. Slowly I readjusted to being this version of me, in my house, in the present. Wow. As I slowly warmed up, I reflected on a very surprising chain of experiences. Both episodes began with real physical sensations in my body and I simply had to wait for information to "arrive". I do not know if they are past life memories, or some deep psyche "metaphor" of this lifetime.  Another rather extraordinary thing was how information coalesced in my conscious mind. I think my imagination filled in some of the blank details, but the manner of death came from outside of my normal thinking processes, came from outside of my own mind. Some of what I came to understand cannot even be easily expressed in verbal language. It was strange and mysterious and there is absolutely no way to objectively determine the source.

The take away is that it is painless to actually die. There might be a lot of physical suffering and mental anguish prior, but once a person actually dies, it is painless. We have feelings and opinions about what happened to us in the life we just lost, too. Apparently, something of who we were in that lifetime continues to exist intact in some form or manner because I held a short conversation with each man after I "remembered" how they died. Perhaps they were ghosts needing some help to move on - except they seemed to have already moved on after they died as far as I could tell. I assume there was trauma and great sadness that had to be healed in both of these experiences and I feel as if that happened. I do not see any change in my day to day thinking but I do feel a lot more confident about dying - someday. Perhaps I will die a very peaceful death this time around.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Few Summer Scenes from Snokomo Road

It has been a beautiful year. I did not take a single serious photograph but I took quick photos with my phone. Such poor photos of the beautiful views in my neighborhood but I am sharing them anyway.

From left to right:  Saturn, Jupiter and Venus as seen from Snokomo Road, November, 2019
A quarter moon sets close behind the sun.
As many times as I have seen a full moon in my lifetime, its magic transcends everything.
Above the west trees at the farm.
Moonrise above the abundance of summer.
Moonrise, thunderheads and the Belt of Venus over amber waves of grain.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Amazing August and Post Script

August is unusually verdant and sweet.  It is most often hot and dry and brown.   This was an uncommonly beautiful evening.
From my favorite sunset viewing spot on Snokomo
The colors in the sky were glowing jewels.
Photography Consultant for the evening.

Retirement is wonderful. There is suddenly time for everything - calling old friends and relatives just to say "hi" - taking a guilt-free nap - spending a little money sometimes without feeling guilty - taking a few classes - simply sitting outdoors with the dogs lazing at my feet. The biggest indulgence has been the new corral fence between the house and the barn, which allows the horses to come close to the house. Sometimes all of us are in contented companionship within a few feet of one another - horses, dogs and old lady. It is awesome.

The horses make several trips a day to the new gate to see if I might have an apple or a pear or other treat. Maybe I am willing to groom them. Wally was far up by the barn the other evening. Sometimes, just seeing my horses fills me with a wave of mighty affection. I called, "What's up, Wally?!" He answered but did not bother to look my way. It was his version of "I'm busy right now, thank you very much." He is a character!

A pair of little barn swallows built a nest on the front porch this summer. It took them a few days and a lot of mud to build their nest. Each time I left the house, both birds flew to the same spot on the electrical line. They were agitated and would not return to nest building for some time. The male would then fly around broadcasting a warning. I was sorry to disturb them but I thought they would soon learn that I was no threat. I was 100% wrong about that. Once the eggs were laid, I tried to be quiet and peaceful leaving the house. I would not look at the nest, hoping the little hen would not fly off but it made no difference. I doubted they would be able to hatch their eggs due to their panic each time I opened the door.

The male, absolutely fearless, flies directly at my head, veering away at the last possible second. After the first tiny, newly-hatched head appeared in the nest, the father's attacks escalated into Navy Seal ferocity. He will come close enough that the rush of air from his wings disturbs my hair. He has also flown directly toward my face a few times. I ignore him, hoping he does not miscalculate. I think it would genuinely hurt if he crashed into my head or face.

I am not the only one attacked. The male swallow will not tolerate the humming birds coming to the feeder on the front porch window. They are too close to his family. The humming birds are determined to feed so there are spectacular aerial fights in the front yard each day. I do not know how fast their flight speed is, but they fly so fast I cannot see details of either bird. I just know the swallow is the larger of the two speeding combatants. (I moved the feeder, but it does not seem to make a difference.)

Today new furniture was delivered. The two young delivery men made multiple trips with cushions, pillows and then large pieces of furniture, so the swallow parents were agitated more than usual. One guy was over six foot tall which meant his bald head was intolerably close to the nest of babies. The shorter man, not much taller than me, pulled his ball cap down over his face, crouched low and made a mad dash off the front porch. I had to laugh! Those two little swallow parents slam dunked on that city boy!

The dogs will have to be kept away from the fledglings, so I am paying close attention to the baby birds. So far, they just have that silly "hair" sticking off their heads but it will not be long before they have real feathers. I hope I get to see them leave the nest.

The swallows must be part of a larger extended family because every morning and evening about six or eight barn swallows spend time feeding. The more mosquitoes they eat, the less there are to bite me! The birds slice through the air in large arcs, avoiding each other with ease. Everything is peaceful,green, abundant and beautiful. Baby toads and little frogs are abundant this year and there are a billion insects. I do not think it has ever been more beautiful. I am lucky enough to be home every single day to enjoy it all. Retirement is wonderful.

Filled with tiny occupants
Horrifying post script: I took the camera to the door with me Sunday morning because the little birds had their new feathers and would be leaving the nest any moment. When I eagerly stepped onto the porch, it took me a few seconds to understand what the hell I was seeing. I took the broom to this evil serpent, but it had already consumed all four of the baby birds. I wanted to kill the snake in that moment but I did not. The poor little fierce parents were attacking the snake but it did no good. I do not know if the humming birds were attacking the snake, too, but they were in the air space, like the tiny warriors they are. I am still sick about this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Sto͞o′pĭd) adj. stu·pid·er, stu·pid·est. 1. Slow to learn or understand; obtuse

There are times I catch myself being amazingly stupid. I was going to hang a framed photo on the wall yesterday. The frame came with a cheap backing that had little rings in the corners. I was thinking, "Dang, that is is going to be difficult getting the measurements for two nails to be the precise distance apart, and level, and the backing will not hold that heavy frame for long!" I realized my stupidity before I put holes in the walls. I hung the photo today with the normal hardware. Stupid, but it could happen to anyone. Sometimes we simply do not use the appropriate area of the brain for problem solving. Other times we are genuinely stupid and there is no excuse.

My house has hardwood floors, a much cleaner way to live in the country, except my "new" vacuum cleaner does not suck the dust off the floor! I have been cussing that vacuum cleaner for more than FIVE YEARS! I have often consoled myself with researching the best vacuums for hardwood flooring. Because it is a new machine, I have not been emotionally prepared to buy another one anytime soon. The dust mop does not work well either due to the texture of the wood. I live with less than clean floors until I can not stand it any longer then I use a wet mop. Sometimes I get on hands and ruined knees with a damp cloth and a bucket of clear water, which is excruciating and I greatly dread it. This has been going on for five years and five months. Something or someone recently took pity on me, probably my female ancestors who simply could not tolerate my stupidity any longer. They intervened and lo, I taketh unto my hand a broom and sweepeth the dust of the earth from the corners of the hearth and there was rejoicing. A BROOM - the oldest housekeeping tool known to primates! There is a damn good reason why brooms are still in use: they work - like magic!


(Out of respect for my children, I will not commit my stupidest to the internet.)

I knew my daughter would have a good stupid photo of  me on Facebook ...

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Green Summer of '19

Evening from Snokomo Road

It has been a beautiful spring and summer so far. There was a week of 110 degree heat index days that caused everyone to move slowly. When I heard myself complaining too loudly, I thought of the people in Europe and India who were (are) suffering extreme heat without American air conditioning. I felt pangs of guilt knowing my energy consumption is contributing to global warming. I cannot be responsible for everything though it feels sometimes as if I am. Of course, we are each responsible for our own actions. To perhaps offset my air conditioning costs to the planet, I have slowed down 5 to 10 miles an hour on the highways, trading some of my time for less gasoline consumption. (Yes, it pisses people off when they are stuck behind me, but they are saving fuel, too. They should thank me instead of giving me the finger.)

Beginning with the snows in October of last year, it has been a time of abundant water here. The sound of flowing water has only recently ceased. The creek is still flowing but it is silent to my human ears. The agony of the bizarre winter floods in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa was frightening, the angry waters made even more devastating with huge boulders of ice. Livestock drowned trapped in their pens and pastures. It seems particularly cruel when the innocent suffer for our arrogance. We have known burning coal releases greenhouse gases to the atmosphere since the 18th century. Joseph Fourier, (Mar 21, 1768 - May 16, 1830) is credited with the discovery of the greenhouse effect. Our best minds have known about this problem for quite some time now. You can be certain that every modern scientist and engineer on the planet since the mid-20th century has intimately understood the greenhouse effect - every engineer employed by the big coal and gas conglomerates - every engineer employed by every large and small utility company across the planet - every automobile engineer. "We" have known it would be an enormous problem. For any politician on the planet to deny the science and ignore the threat we are facing is unconscionable.

The Dalai Lama said we did not know but now that we do, we must take care of our planet. When Kansas is as lush and green and fertile as it is this summer, how can we not look at it and marvel over the magnificent gift of this planet? How can we possibly ignore that it is our fault that thousands of species are going extinct - plants, insects, fish, animals of all kinds? Perhaps most egregious is the suffering of the whales, the greatest sentient beings in the solar system. As far as we know right now, whales are the largest sentient beings in the universe. With our pathetic wars, in our frail humanity, whales are continually hunted, poisoned, tortured. We cause them to become deaf with underseas radar, weapons, location systems, and with the frenetic search for more oil. Many whales are starving, either with bellies full of plastic or due to our over-fishing the oceans. How arrogant we are to think we could live on a planet devoid of the full web of life.

While I am deeply nourished by this green and golden year, I wonder just how many more times in my life the weather conditions will be favorable for such a beautiful season. Maybe never.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

If It Ain't Raining, I'm Bitching About Something Else

Rain and eye surgery have been the preoccupations so far this summer. So boring. So "elderly"! Also, so amazing! Profound medical knowledge and technology combined with a skilled surgeon has restored my eyesight to a remarkable degree already. It will steadily improve over the next weeks. It was disconcerting to be awake and know what was happening to my very dear and irreplaceable eye(s), but the surgeon completed the procedure in a few MINUTES. I am lucky to live in these remarkable and knowledgeable times.

I know my physical body is slowly wearing out but I feel strong and vital and young at heart most of the time. After the well-intentioned patronizing from the surgical nurses, I realized that I must safeguard my own self-perception going forward on this journey of retirement and old age. The nurses assume I do not understand technology and require someone younger to explain. (I am old, motherfuckers, not stupid!) If I have a little difficulty hearing, it doesn't mean I am mentally deficit as well - I just need the nurse to speak a bit more crisply - not more slowly - not more loudly. The surgical team dealt the worst insult of all. Because I have a cane, they put a second medical band on my wrist bearing the hand written warning: "Fall Risk". Fuck that! I still carry 60 pound bags of oats, 50 pound bags of dog food! I still carry the 5 gallon 40 pound water jugs. I can still push my lawn tractor sideways to move it if I need to. I am not some frail old lady - yet. Becoming physically old happens despite our most fervent desire to not wear out like tired elastic in an old pair of underwear! Those nurses will all grow old, too. Some day they will remember every time they treated an older person like a child and they will regret it. The WORST was insisting that I sit in a goddamned wheelchair after the surgery, then being wheeled out to the curb like a sack of yams! I was perfectly capable of walking and should have been allowed to walk out of there like an adult! (I assume their insurance liability ends at the curb.)

I behaved and did not give any of the nurses a hard time but I doubled my resolve to stay as far away from medicines and doctors as possible for as long as possible. Nothing makes you feel any worse than to be treated like an adult imbecile. However, if they had treated me as callously as people are routinely treated in the work place, I would be bitching even more about that.

I am thankful for the amazing level of knowledge and skill and true medicine available to us. If I regain the ability to clearly see the stars, it will be worth sitting in a wheel chair against my will.