Memento mori


I’m sitting here watching Saving Private Ryan and I notice Captain Miller’s compass during the scene where they come across the airborne soldier and all of the wounded that have gathered around and they’ve just gotten a positive ID on where James Ryan is so they sit down to look at the map. I think my compass is from my dad. Maybe it was from when he was in the military, I wonder. Then I wonder where it is and what significance it has to me. I used to be fascinated by it when I was little. Not only did it possess the mysterious ways of the magnet, it folded in three and had a wire that went through a small cut out rectangle. Man’s clever devices and inventions. I wondered who was lucky enough to had gotten the patent on the design and win a government military contract.

“We’ll take four billion of those young man!” booms some general in a very important office somewhere. The Pentagon probably.

What will happen to all these little things when I die? This will have no meaning to my children, I imagine. Or maybe some of them will wonder what any of it meant to me. I think my boys appreciate nostalgia – and my older boy will probably appreciate any military sentiments like the flag and dog tags. I think about my parents’ old cameras I used to use. My dad’s mostly. I brought it to photography class with me. It was a big old 35 mm camera. My mom’s was small, silver and a little less robust. Both are circa 1950’s. I wonder where are those. I think my younger son will appreciate those and my vinyl records.

My mom never really had much character. She was just kind of afraid of everything and everything was going to kill me.

“Watch out for cars, they’re going to kill you!”

“Those bus drivers drive like maniacs, they’re going to kill you!”

“Don’t go to the city, it’s dangerous and it’s going to kill you!”

Ironically, if we stay inside and eat Chef Boyardee and drink Kool-Aid or Folgers we will be safe.

All this from a woman who never rode a bike (it’ll kill you), never swam (she’ll sink straight to the bottom “Like a stone!”) and didn’t really read or run or roller skate or have any hobbies. Well, hobbies she wanted to share, I guess. She made beautiful works with her sewing machine. She was a perfectionist which is probably why she didn’t want to teach me anything, and she knitted. She cooked every day, so, finally, I would get to be involved with something even if it was just licking the mixing beaters.

So, I guess that was her character.

Its nice to remember her laughing with her friends and having a good time. It makes me quite sad to think about actually, her fullness of life, since today she is so very frail. My whole life we would visit my parents’ friends. We’d go to “Kate’s” house (ten years younger) and “Fred and Margie’s” house (same age) and her friend Rose (ten years older) would get a visit every now and then, come by or – when she got too old – she’d just call… every night … after she’d had a few glasses of Jack and Coke as that was her drink.

“Why do you talk to her?!” I’d ask. “She just tells you the same story over and over again and she’s plastered by the time she calls.”

“I know I know, but she’s lonely,” my mom would say. Mom was never a drinker.

Every night, Rose would call.

We never got any call saying Rose had passed. If she hasn’t, she must be a hundred by now and probably still enjoying that Jack and Coke where ever she is.

Mom’s been losing her mind for about twenty years now and twenty years is a long time to be losing your mind. I can distinctly remember when her best friend really just started loosing patience over the fact she’d repeat herself or be entertained by the same story over and over again every week. But, then being retired, nothing really new was happening in her life so I guess she really didn’t have anything new to say and she did like to be entertaining so she would ramble on and my aunt would roll her eyes and then finally one day I heard her say, “Emi, you told me that so many times already!” No patience and apparently no understanding about what was happening. Yet, I understood my aunt’s feeling. I guess I just wanted some help. But you cant give help when you need to help your own aging self and your own family. By that time, both of their eyes were starting to go and they were getting weary of long drives to each other’s houses. But they did used to have a great time together it seemed and for many years. Probably 40 or 45 years worth or more. That’s a lot of time. Where did the time go?

The things is, we never do know where the time goes. And, as I get older I notice people dying around me. I see some parents out living their grown children sometimes – and not from any wrong doing. It doesn’t really matter if you’re an accountant or a motocross rider. There is really no safety from death.

Today is the first day of the last month of the year. I see people contemplating the past year and what the next year will hold. I hear people deliberating about recent current events or redefining to each other what it is to “really live”. Doesn’t really matter, does it? How to live. If you’re alive, you’re living. And if you’re living, you’re experiencing all sorts of emotional highs and lows. And so then, I guess it doesn’t really matter what happens to my stuff after I die. Some things I’ve had all my life like the little compass or a creepy eyed doll and some things I’ve had only as an adult but was life changing. That Cervelo, it really is art, you know, art with wheels. You could just hang it on the wall and it radiates a warm feeling of speed and potential. Then I guess some of my favorite things in life are alive too, and they will pass on with me or before me or after me. You never really know, do you?

There is no summation, no answer and no tidy conclusion. The winter months are here and mortality is on my mind. I watch my mother’s fading life and think about how I want to live my last days or how other’s have lived their last days. I think about Hunter S. Thompson blowing his brains out. I think about Jack Kerouac and his liver cirrhosis at 47. I think about meeting Lawrence Ferlinghetti and how wise he was to preserve his health and his mind into old age regardless of all those beat poet habits. I think about my daughter and her memories of me as well as my sons’.… In the end, to be forgotten like one in a million…. “a needle in a stack of needles” … So, was it worth it? Captain Miller, Did I earn it? Only God knows. (And who is God? God is me. God is you.)

Ramblings

electronic gear and gadgets

dry skin

magazine distractions from feeling anything but love and adventure

surreal vicarious dreaming

puppy love with a big old dog resembling a bull dozer

fluffy like a t-rex

moments of joy in between frustrations

doing the right thing even if I curse loudly the whole way

I’d fit in as a New York cab driver just fine

Fist fight? Okay.

Give me mud, lots of mud and trees to wash the shit away

back home my skin buzzes and my muscles hum

thankful

high on endorphins

taking in the warm swirling espresso with cream

waiting

I sit here on one of my 45 minute blips of life waiting for my mom to finish her soup. I have to wait here because she’s getting stronger, but, being plagued by dementia, she still lacks common sense and will try to move around beyond her current capabilities. She’s been getting stronger, ironically, since she’s been home being treated by me and my ways the past nine days. A steady diet of fresh foods, mostly protiens, fresh organic veggies and fat, and exercise, like it or not (she likes it, I think she gets quite proud of herself actually as she counts, “One, two! One, two!” the entire time).

We went to her primary care physician today for a check up and saw her orthopedic surgeon about two weeks ago, so we’re being diligent. Her primary supports what Im doing and it’s hard to deny the results. She also listened to my complaints about the nursing home without surprise, advised me of some resources and had a good conversation with me about it all. When we saw the orthopedic surgeon, he advised “getting her up and walking as often as possible” as that is the only way she’ll improve. He even wrote it on a prescription pad. I don’t think the nurses at the nursing home shared the note.

I think about finishing the book my daughter gave me to read, it’s right upstairs. These 45 minute blips of life are taking a toll on my mind, but I know it’s only going to get worse. I think about how my life was when I had a newborn, a two year old and a 4 year old. Somehow I’m back to chasing run aways and changing diapers. Two year olds are much faster than 85 year olds, but it is much more significant when the 85 year old falls down. The doctor gave me some ideas about full time care for mom. I’m not in a rush to go back to unhealthy conditions after all this work getting back to a healthy upward trajectory. I definitely feel grateful for the ability to fulfill my role as a care giver for more than two decades now. I wonder what else will I be allowed to be, if anything.

That sounds petty, doesn’t it? “Allowed to be” as if I don’t have a will. “Allow myself to be” – is that better? Worse? I’ll throw it in with all the other intangibles such as “Make time for” and “Make myself into” and “Will become” and even worse “Am”. Am, referring to the infinite string of the present moment. I am a writer. I am a parent. I am a care giver. I am alone. I am social. I am grumpy. I am a web mistress. I am a fitness instructor. I am a yogi. I am a dog lover. I am an environmentalist. I am a nature lover.

Some of these titles I never knew about myself. I’ll never forget when someone called me an athlete about ten years ago and I was taken aback. I mean, after all, I wasn’t an athlete in high school. I mean, doesn’t that equate to jock and aren’t jocks the enemy? Still, I felt I now understood this word. And I remembered a football player that was in my English class that kept up with the literature and conversation, who smiled at me, listened and was really nice even if I looked like night to his day.

Or “pretty”. … Worse is “beautiful”. What is that exactly, I thought. Certainly it is not me. And of course, as there are people who will hold you up, there are those that will rip you down as well. Best to have an inner gauge to rely on, be polite, say your thank you’s and brush off those who want to bring negativity to your world. I mean, you already know you’re flawed, right? Some things you can help, so you do make such valiant efforts. Some things you cannot help. I mean, if I don’t like the size of my wrist bones I am not going to rip them out for new ones. And if someone doesn’t like the little fat puffs under my armpits, tough. Ive had these my whole life like it or not. (No, I never liked it.)

Due to my lack of formal education in some areas, I have also been called “talented”. Its a patronizing word, really. “Talented”…. white male speak for either “Sexy” or “Good, but uneducated”. Well, I do have a Bachelors degree, but it’s not in writing or dancing or teaching or fitness or art or hospitality. For those things, and a few other, grittier things, I have a life degree I suppose. Nothing but good old fashioned experience, willfulness and street smarts. And I was definitely willful when I went back to school and got my degree – too bad it wasn’t in a more practical degree for me albeit a “solid” and “smart choice” kind of degree.

But who needs a degree in a subject when you are prolific, passionate and persistent, right? I think about how much cocaine Anthony Bourdain must have ingested to write his book and to stay on top of things all those late nights as a chef and professional drinker of hard alcohol. Not to mention the thick skin and the hustling.

How many words a day? How many should I write? What is the definition of prolific? Where is my jumbled body of work and can I sew them together? Are they salable? Are they scalable? Do I kid myself as I stick my life on a shelf somewhere in between vapid run-away adventurer and pretentious intellectual anti-authoritarian?

Okay, maybe I’m not quite “vapid” … and hopefully I’m not pretentious…. even if I would rather swing from extremes than be as I am, medium. I mean, I shop for t-shirts and try on all sizes. Medium. I get a bike. It’s medium. I order steak. Medium. I get shoes. Medium. I take a test. Average. Go figure. I guess “Medium” and “Average” are just two more things that I “Am”. I think, since I am alive and that has been working for me, I am alright with that. Funny that I’ve never quite felt “Normal” though.

Being single, these days in this neighborhood, is not “Normal” and what comes along with that is all kinds of awkwardness and unintentional intruding on other people’s spouses and other general troublemaking when sometimes all I am is alone. And alone doesn’t mean lonely all the time, it just means being in my inner circle. I remember being in my second year of college and my classes were really difficult so I wanted to be alone and people started calling me a lesbian. Does it really make a difference? No is no. Later I found out this particular study group I hung out in to do my all night study sessions at Denny’s were all high on coke and just wanted to study medicine for the money. I was young and stupid and this didn’t fit my ideal so after a successful completion of that year, I took a break to pursue outdoor education and hike around in Colorado.

Cooking with love

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“Noooo! I love it!!! Make it again, that weird rice with the eggs and carrots,” the children cooed as they pranced around their mawmaw’s legs while walking into the kitchen in the morning.

“Yea? Haha.. You liked that, huh?” She softly said as she smiled.

Joan pulled a frying pan from the lower cabinet and washed her hands. She pulled some eggs and carrots from the refrigerator. The rice was sitting on the counter from the night before, perfect rice for fried rice.

Americans like to call it “sticky rice” because they had grown accustomed to products like Uncle Ben’s rice which is processed so that the individual grains don’t stick to one another. This is what as known as simply “rice” in Japan, or “gohan” which happens to be also another word for meal.

Joan liked the sticky rice and was glad the children enjoyed it as well. She felt humored and somewhat worldly using it. Only but a few months prior had she opened herself up to what is known as “sushi” which she had mistaken for raw fish and had thought it disgusting. Turns out, she said, “it’s not so bad” and she could bring this up in conversation with her new daughter in law who is half Japanese, half American. Joan loved to cook and this was something they had in common and often they would watch each other cooking in the kitchen. Joan would make cajun food, and Michelle Japanese. This is when she spied her daughter in law making fried rice.

“Oooo, I always wanted to learn to make that,” she said upon seeing how much her grandchildren loved it. She lived to make her grandchildren smile. It was her heart and soul now. The quilts, the books, the trips to the aquarium, the camping trips, the games, the holding of hands, the secrets whispered in their tiny ears … all for them. She was particularly gifted in making people feel loved. And she made them feel very very loved.

The fried rice seemed to get the children to eat their veggies. You eat your veggies and you’re being healthy. She liked that. And the bonus was, there wasn’t even a struggle. They just ate it all up. The “trick” was particularly fun to her as it tapped into the elementary school teacher in her where she was always pouring honey over the english lessons and charming the children, her students, into learning and having a desire to read and study. She could be sweet like that and quite clever so when she saw this, she wanted to learn.

One morning her daughter in law walked into the kitchen and caught Joan laughing at herself standing over the stove.

“How do you do this?!” she giggled.

Michelle looked into the pan. The rice was coated with egg and the carrots were still crunchy as they do not cook as quickly as egg. The rice was starting to stick to the pan and the soy sauce was beginning to caramelize, stick and smoke. She stirred furiously and turned the fire off laughing the whole time. She didn’t burn it, so she took a taste.

“Well, it tastes ok haha,” she smiled and looked at Michelle who tasted it, smiled and agreed.

“What did you make, Mawmaw?!” Daisy asked.

“Um…. I tried to make fried rice like your mom, but it didn’t turn out so well,” she said with a grinning and giggling with humilty, “You want to try it?”

She put some of the rice mixture on plates for Daisy and the boys, her brothers, who looked up with their big eyes and chubby cheeks.

“MMMMMM it’s delicious, Mawmaw!” Daisy affirmed.

Joan never did learn to make fried rice. She just got too many requests for “Eggs and Rice” which is what they called it after that. She would remember to throw the carrots in first so they could soften a bit more and then to coat the rice and carrots with the eggs and just to add salt rather than soy and it seemed to work out just fine. Raven put a little ketchup on it without saying a word and everyone ate up their vegetables. A breakfast with love is never a bad breakfast.

Apple Pie

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Sometimes It’s just good to stay in and meditate on apple pie and not worry about the complicated nature of things. Trust your instincts in the moment. Don’t get wound up and frustrated about things. Walk away if you don’t like what’s going down. Don’t let yourself be disrespected. You can see the worminess of people who know they’ve done you wrong but want to come crawling back. It’s kind of entertaining anyway. You allow it, or not. Up to you. Forgiveness is a thing afterall. Besides, one day it might be you. It’s a different way to just move on, or “move forward”, if you prefer, as in “move forward with your life”. I think it’s important not to remain stagnant. I find sometimes it is easy for me to get caught up in other people. Like my loves. Is it physical addiction? Do I truly enjoy their company? Is it leading? Is it following? Do I respect them? Do I listen?

Whatever the situation, it distracts me from myself and my own inner dialogue and most importantly, it distracts me from what I need to do to move my life forward.

That’s annoying. Really, I’m just getting annoyed with myself for allowing it.

Some people say it isn’t good to have boundaries. Boundaries are different than walls. Walls are some kind of rudimentary protective measure. Boundaries are you defining what is okay and not okay with you in a relationship. I suppose you can respect walls, but you definitely need to respect boundaries. Whether you are respecting your own or someone else’s walls or boundaries, you are building trust. Do you trust yourself? Are you strong enough to defend your boundaries while still letting people inside your walls?

I want to be like Wilson, the 6 month old watermelon that resides in the media hole on my shelf in my kitchen. I picked him up the other day figuring it was time to throw him out. He was rock solid. Probably mush on the inside. That’s not why I want to be like him though. When I think about watermelons I think about that luscious sweet interior that hides within the tough rind. Sometimes the rind is bitter. But sometimes the rind is cool and clean tasting, like cucumber. I want to be like that: cool, clean and lusciously sweet on the inside.

Don’t worry, I realize I can’t keep Wilson “the trust watermelon”  forever. Eventually, Linus grows up and has to give up his blankie. Or not – he is a cartoon, I guess. Bad example. Before you know it, I will be saying I want to be like Linus because he’s a cartoon … and that would be dull… trapped in a two dimensional world for my whole of existence… which would be forever like a vampire of the celluloid and digital reproduction sort.

Just home from a night out. Pie cooled and beautiful sitting on the island. Perfectly browned. The perfect mix of hawaiin salt in crust and sweet buttery bourbon on melted green apple on the inside … This. … This is all the matters now.

The Light

Was super excited when it was 3:30 in the afternoon and it wasn’t dark out anymore. I had just woken up from a nap. Only a few hours sleep the night before, but still the nap was light. Just couldn’t sleep. When I did finally fall asleep I had crazy dreams. Almost felt like I’d been sweating in my sleep they were so fierce, but when I opened my eyes there was nothing.

Were they bicycles or motor bikes? Was it a carnival or circus? I think I was a little kid in the dream. I remember looking up into a face of a man with longer hair, kinda wavy, dark and he had dark eyes. The memory is a little blurry. The dream felt real like a flashback to a real memory. Maybe I blocked this person out of my subconscious somehow. Maybe I knew him from a past life. Or a future life.

My imaginings went on and on. I wanted all the possibilities to be real.

For now, it time to work. Time to get up. Time to pay the bills and drink the coffee. Time to leave my imaginings behind while I go out and move my body through space and complete tasks and such. Luckily, the world I live in is actually pretty colorful. Especially now that the darkness is going away. Still, sometimes it gets cloudy, but now every day we we have more and more light earlier and earlier until summer. I always fear the  darkness just a little bit. I wonder if I will go into some kind of hibernation of sorts that I wont recover from. Then I watch myself become pale and lifeless, almost green.

I want the leaves to be green. I want the grass to be green. I don’t want my skin to be green. I struggle with my appearances enough as it is. Being a light shade of green really wouldn’t help my case.

I walked the dog the other day and peeking out from the snow were bright green leaves. Were the Crocus confused or was this a different plant? Looked quite bushy and full for Crocus leaves and there was a lot of it in this one little patch in the park. Just there. No where else. I felt pleased and yet sad at the same time for the poor confused hopeful plant. The dog and I just walked by. There wasn’t really anything to do about it. It is just nature after all and it will have to figure itself out as it always does.

Now it is night. I look up at the partly cloudy sky and see the clouds floating past the stars and moon. The same clouds that prevented me from seeing the sun and blue sky earlier. They don’t seem grey anymore when illuminated from behind by the white white moon and a few glimmering stars. Still, I will be happy if they just keep moving on their merry way in the darkness now while we sleep giving way to a warm, bright light in the morning when we will be one more day closer to summer.

Cold and silent

Must have been meant to walk home and enjoy the silence tonight because my phone died mid conversation.

No one was out as it is quite cold, but that refreshing crisp air on my face quickly brought a flood of memories from my childhood when I indulged in the winter days as I did the summer.

My eyes fell upon the street light glimmering on the ice glazed snow and the calm of the pond in the park where the old school outdoor ice skating rink is. The river was high and fast today. I thought how easy it would be to get swept away in it.

When I was a youngin, we often went way up to the upper peninsula of Michigan and get a cabin in the woods around Iron River. It was easy to spend all day in the cold and snow. Some of the nordic skiing trails were so remote, you could go out and not see people for hours. Just you and the freshly fallen snow and the reeds and tall grasses. Cold and silent. Still. Peaceful.

Of course, I use the word “cold”, but I was not cold. It was the air. Clean. Blue. Full of puffy white clouds. Crisp. The air was perfect. And I loved to gaze on the crystalline reflectiveness of the untouched snow. Only the fire in the cabin following a good ski could pair with this, and maybe some hot chocolate.

If I wanted to see people, I could go to the alpine ski runs or visit my friend who took care of the clydesdales and ran the sleigh. The obviousness of the joy in swooshing past pine trees and laughing and snowball fights would always ensue – along with a mid run spiced cider in the warm glow of the tavern. All this was my precursor to the wonderful Rocky Mountain skiing – where the runs were miles long.

A flood of memories spurred just by the cold silent crisp air turning my cheeks pink on a quick walk home.

Happiness and Love

Buddha;s hand and head

When I think about the synthesis of all that’s happened in the past few weeks and all that I’ve done, I realize how easy it is to think superficially about it. It’s reactionary. It’s thrill seeking. It’s crazy. It’s just me pushing myself too hard. It’s me over compensating for some thing I feel I’m not.

How about the idea of just being in the present moment. Being fully present. Not being afraid – even though I was sometime – a healthy fear because if I didn’t have that, I might fall off a cliff. Not hesitating – even though I did hesitate to make the decision to run the marathon until that morning and I felt pretty good, so I went for it. Not thinking about the future – even though I should have because I was definitely in a lot of pain in my shoulder Sunday night after the marathon  – not to mention my legs – trying to sleep…. but isn’t that to be expected? Not thinking about the past – because Sam and I got into a huge blow out fight the week prior unfortunately – yet the reasons for the fight seemed  to have burned off albeit we proceeded with a little trepidation for the first few hours of seeing each other.

I have been accused of being a plan maker. Honestly, after some failures due to plan making in the past, I’ve given it up. It can be difficult for some around me because I’m a little bit fly-by-night really – just living by intuition and following (or subduing) desire. I close my eyes and feel this single fleeting moment – I open my eyes and see clearly all these possibilities – I am … or … I am that, as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj would say (something to strive for, at least) – I am here, right now in this present moment within and among everything.

As a yogi immersed in the yoga world for so long, I used to roll my eyes at that concept after the 3000th person said it as if it were new … Now, being a little more away from it, I am happy to say I can appreciate it again. There’s been a lot of change and a lot of growth throughout my years – which is the primary reason I write. I write this as a deconstruction of the ‘why’ I do things for myself – and for who ever else finds some comfort or answers in it. It is not a need to explain myself just a synthesis cued by the  words ‘adrenaline junkie’. And, if I am that – I am a slow one.

Some would think that following desire is purely hedonistic, but it’s not. Life this way is far from wallowing in the swells of debauchery. I have found, actually, trust of self and others becomes much stronger and I hone my instinct much more succinctly by allowing myself this freedom. Say, I could sleep with whoever I want … but I don’t. I could drink all day long … but I don’t. I could run off and live in the wilderness … but I don’t … I could do a lot of things, I suppose … but my desire to be a good, thoughtful and reflective person exists and so … I don’t.

All this in the pursuit of happiness and love. Happiness and love: for self, for others, for the earth, for art (inanimate objects), for other living creatures (animate objects), for destruction (whereby there comes growth), for understanding of philosophy.

Anyone who has hunted for happiness and love will probably agree on it’s futility. Yet, still, we either hunt for it, exist in it or have abandoned it.

So, what does this have to do with the fact that I would run a marathon and hike a fairly difficult trail with a broken collarbone? The answer simply is because I can. Matt Fitzgerald sites in his book Brain Training for Runners how when it becomes publicized that an athlete has broken a barrier – the 4 minute mile for example – then suddenly people realize it is possible and the barrier that existed for decades suddenly is broken multiple times within the next few years.

Now, I’m certainly not saying everyone should go run a marathon with broken bones. What I am saying is that it was thought out, it was intuitive and it’s possible to do fairly safely. (It’s especially nice when you have a good friend who brings you ibuprofen at mile 17 on the run.)

Does this make me happy? Yea, kinda. I’m pretty happy I completed the mission at hand, so to speak… even if it was moment by moment decision making. Does it make me feel or give love? Yea, it kinda does. There was a lot of camaraderie on the trail and among marathoners, and, on a level up, there is the care that closer friends give to each other, and the care we take of ourselves. And, isn’t that the definition of love? To care deeply. There was no fighting or bickering over stupid things – there was just admiration, affection, feelings of warmth and closeness.

Maybe it doesn’t always happen this way – maybe I got lucky. It’s okay…. I’ll take it.  I’m not going to lie – it was a lot of work. And it was all worth it. And I don’t mind getting a little luck anytime anyway. Who would?

This time of year especially can be difficult in the pursuit of happiness and love. Seems to be the time of year when everyone questions love and is too stressed to be happy. This is exactly the opposite of how we’re supposed to feel around the winter holidays – but it’s usually inevitable. So this paragraph is a reminder to just focus on what’s really important to you and to let the rest go. Be late. Don’t worry. Smile. Hug. Greet people. Be kind. Slow down. It will all be okay – and hey if you forget something there will always be the next day and the day after that and you trust yourself – you’ll get it done.

Okay  – that’s it for now … work beckons.

With happiness and love,

M

 

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