Being Big When You Think You Are Small

In the past, when I heard about the horrendous terrorist events in Ferguson, Charleston, Paris, and other places around the world I was saddened and angry. It was only through television and the internet that those of us who don’t live in those places got to observe and imagine the damage done and the lives lost. Those things hadn’t happened in my own backyard. And I wasn’t in touch with those who were affected by those appalling events. But now I know what it’s like and how it feels.

I’ve been struggling to write about what happened here in Charlottesville on Saturday, August 11th when all hell broke loose with the arrival of the AltRight, NeoNazis, and the KKK. I still cannot find the words. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. You all know what happened. You saw the footage on television and the internet, or maybe you were here on the street standing up for what you believe in.

I was not on the street. I was at home. But the action was only 1.8 miles away and I could hear the hellicopter monitoring the situation overhead in the distance. The same helicopter that went down later in the afternoon killing both of the state troopers on board … not long after a lovely young woman was hit by a crazed, domestic terrorist with his car. She died and 19 others were injured, some seriously.

Many are criticizing the city government, the police, and the university for not being prepared. But how can a small city like Charottesville be prepared for something like that. All of us are only human and we do the best we can. The KKK rally earlier in the July was a walk in the park compared to what happened on the 11th. Though many predicted that the August rally would be violent, we have never needed police or military forces to protect our little city before now.

What I can tell you for sure is that despite many unhappy souls, we in Charlottesville are healing. And our little city has become BIG. BIG hearts. BIG love. BIG conversations are happening. Not only here but all over the country. The support and the love that is still streaming our way is astounding and so very much appreciated.

I have always believed that even in the horrible scenarios, good things can manifest. If what happened here is beginning to change the conversation around our country and the world, which I believe it is, I’m proud to be a Charlottesvillian. We may look like a small blue dot in a big red state on most political maps, but we are BIG. And praise be that we have been given the opportunity to let the world know who we are and what we stand for. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned. People came together. The world will be a better place because of what happened here.

The Next Great Adventure

For Bill and I, big changes often come out of the blue. We’ve been perfectly content and happy where we are. But less than a month ago we were in conversation with a friend who is about our age. We were talking about aging, aching bodies, brain farts, and a host of other things that inflict those of us who are moving on in years. She told us about a couple she knows who have sold their lovely dream home and moved into a new one-story home in a small, nearby development. They are loving their new place, meeting new neighbors, and the convenience of having the outside mainenance of their home taken care of for them. No more seasonal gutter cleaning, leaf raking, snow removal, lawn mowing, etc. Healthy and happy, they now have more time to travel and take advantage of leisure time they’d not experienced in the past.

As we were listening to our friend, both Bill and I realized we’d been thinking about a similar kind of move. Though we’d talked about it now and then, it was something that was way in the future. But with birthdays coming up in November and being in our mid-seventies, we have been aware of the struggles of other friends who have waited too long to accept the changes that aging brings. Some have gotten very ill, passed on, or are now moving into senior living facilities. Wanting to make the most of the years we have left, we want to live with dignity and grace while we can. And there has been the haunting question of what would life be like without the other? Would the one left behind be comfortable living where we are now … a big house that is also aging and needs continuing maintenance? Though the garden is small and exquisitely beautiful, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with it as my body refuses to do what it used to do. And though I do loads of self-care including Egoscue, Pilates and Yoga, it still won’t go back to the way it was when I was twenty-five or even forty.

So we decided to go take a look at a small, new development not far from where we live now. And though we said we’d never live in a townhouse, we walked into the model that was open that afternoon and fell in love. During the next few days we toured other places, but at the end of the day we always went back to that first place in a quiet location with lovely gardens and walking trails in the woods next door. We put a hold deposit down on one of the last available lots that will be a finished home next June. We figured we’d need at least a year to clean this place out and prepare ourselves for the next chapter.

But God, the Universe, or whatever you may want to call that thing that helps us and directs us through life, had other things in mind. When we told our good friend and realestate broker, Bob, what we were doing, he found a finished resale available in the same development. It is an end unit with glass on three sides rather than on just two. We went to look at it, made an offer and it was immediately accepted. The unit is only a year old, and the seller lived there for only seven months. It is a four story home, but get this … it has an elevator for when our legs, knees, and other bodyparts start failing us. It is half the size of the home we’re in now but I’ll still have a fairly large studio on the top floor with a walkout veranda.

So here we go, ready to set out on our next adventure. This house will go on the market shortly and with lots of available help we look to move into our Out of Bounds townhome sometime in November. We will miss this gorgeous home and our wonderful neighbors here. But it’s time for us to simplify and to move on.  Life moves on and we need move with it. I’ll post pics as soon as I can get some.

I’ll keep you apprised as the adventure continues. In the meantime I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.

Are you setting out on any new adventures?

What? Me Retired?

Last week when a friend asked me if I was making visual art or writing, I caught myself saying, “No, I’m retired.” Even though I haven’t been painting or writing much these days, I haven’t considered myself retired. I’m still busy as a bee and can’t seem to tell you where the days go. Since then I’ve found myself using that word more often, especially when it’s time to get up in the morning and I tell myself, “Oh, there’s plenty of time. After all, you are retired.”

Interestingly, I’ve recently talked to two artist friends my age or a bit older, and they tell me they aren’t making art either. They, like me are simply letting the days unfold before them and are enjoying things they haven’t done in a long while, like sleep in, travel, and not worry about tomorrow.

So I’m beginning to think that maybe I really am retired. I’m taking it easy, working on getting the kinks worked out of my stiff body, and enjoying extra sleep time. It’s time for lots of reading, writing in my journal, and eating foods grown on the lush farms all around me. Virginia Peaches are just coming in and their sweet juiciness is what summer is all about. Our farmer’s market is the place to go early on Saturday mornings if you want to fill your frig with the best veggies. It’s also where I often catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

As a way of testing whether or not I’m retired, I’m taking some time off here and blogging only when I have something important or inspiring to say. Though we’re mostly at home this summer, we’re eyeing a lovely cruise up the New England and Canadian coast, then down the St. Lawrence Seaway in the fall. And who knows what else will present itself? I’m opening up my life and my days by leaning into the breeze and seeing where it takes me. I’m not giving up the visual art and writing ghosts at all. I’m simply allowing my muse the extra time and space she needs to fly.

See you next time! And have a wonderful summer!

PAREIDOLIA

One of my favorite things to do on a warm, breezy summer day, is lie down in the grass and watch clouds pass overhead. I watch for those that remind me of animals. Sometimes a turtle, an elephant, or dragon. They change quickly as they move across the sky and it’s interesting how the things I see dissolve into something else or nothing at all.

I’m not alone in being a person who sees images and especially faces in inanimate objects. There are many of us  and it’s called Pareidolia. This capability has been with me since I was a child. My mother also saw these images and I suppose it could be that I learned it from her or it might have been passed down to me genetically. A new study in Japan found that those you see faces like the ones I see in the photo above are neurotic.

What? Me neurotic? Well, maybe. Aren’t most of us? If you look up the definition of neurosis you’ll find that it’s defined as “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.” So maybe it’s true that I am neurotic. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, after all. But thankfully I’m in recovery. I’ve slowed my pace and do a lot of self-care … taking naps, meditating, writing, walking, gardening, reading, and listening to music. My stress levels have greatly diminished and I’m feeling like a new woman.

Do you see the rabbit in this one?

But thankfully those creatures and faces I see in the tiles on my shower wall are still with me. I think of them as my “shower friends” and have always enjoyed seeing them. They remind me of cartoon characters and I see them as happy and funny.

I’ve always attributed this ability of mine to my creative bent and what helps to make me an artist. I’m a very visual person. Give me written directions on how to do something, and it will take me forever to figure it out. Show me how to do something, and I’m there with you, ready to go. That’s how I learned to knit, weave, spin sheep’s wool into yarn, paint, and cook delicious food, among other things.

So, neurotic or not, I’m glad for whatever causes me to be able to do this. How about you? Do you see faces or animals in inanimate objects? What do you see in photographs of the tiles I’ve included here?

Relearning How To Rest

Over the last few years whenever I’ve gone away to take a break, I’ve taken all kinds of work to do with me. Last week was no exception. Bill and I spent four nights in one of our favorite places listening to waves rushing the shore, watching Pelicans flying overhead and eating delicious seafood. I had my to-do list with me. I planned on getting ahead by writing a few blog posts in advance, and catch up on reading the blog posts of those I follow and haven’t had time to get to in a few weeks. There were also a host of things on my computer desktop that I needed to file away.

The first day went by and I didn’t get any of that done. The day was dark, with rain showers, and very humid. The famous Outer Banks Midgies, small, gross, flying insects, were everywhere. They don’t bite but they arrive on days when there is a land breeze. When the wind shifts to an ocean breeze they quickly find shelter elsewhere. I’m not one of those people who absolutely hates insects freaking out when I see a spider or stinkbug coming my way, but these guys really got to me. At one point there were so many of them on the screen doors to our deck, that they obstructed our view of the ocean. And they covered almost every square inch of the deck chairs. Really! I took a brief walk on the beach, did some reading, and slept. We went out to dinner and tucked ourselves in early.

It’s been a crazy few months at our house with Bill’s hugely successful production of Death of a Salesman, my unsuccessful attempt to clean out my studio, and figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I’d really been looking forward to getting away … no phones ringing, no meals to cook, no place to be. But I felt restless. I didn’t feel like doing anything, yet part of me wanted to be busy. I wasn’t interested in doing any of the things on my to-do list or doing much of anything else either. I read some more, watched some of the daily insanity on cable news, and slept.

On day two I was still restless. Over the last few years while I was engaged in getting my book ready for publication there was always something that had to be done, keeping me from spending time simply being. When I did take a nap, or sit in the garden and to simply enjoy the day, I felt guilty and overwhelmed by what was waiting to be done. Back to work I’d go.

Over the last year, especially, I’ve found myself longing for time to just be without a list of things I had to accomplish. And there I was last week at the beach, suddenly realizing that I was there to just BE … to REST … and to let the world take care of itself without my needing to help. I had forgotten how important it is to have days when I don’t have to do anything. And I’d forgotten how to do that.

In this strange world we’re living in we rush around hoping to get what we need to do done and living in angst over where this country of ours is going. For many of us self-care flies out the window and we forget that in order to help bring about the change we want to see in our world, we need to slow down and really, really rest. We can’t help bring about that change unless we take care of ourselves first. I’m taking time for that now. Are you?