Monday, October 29, 2012

Wicked Witch Meets 1950’s Americana

I got a bike. I know. This is about as momentous as my pronouncement about having read a book. But to me it is an accomplishment – something that I have wanted to do for a long time and something that was at the top of my “when I retire” list.

I used a bike as my primary transportation in college and then when I was a VISTA volunteer in Yakima Washington in the early 70’s. In the early 90’s I had a boyfriend who had just come off the amateur racing circuit, so I tried to be into cycling. But I was never really comfortable -   leaning over the handlebars, craning my neck,  skinny seat all up in there.  And the bikes – like riding a paperclip. This required way too much finesse for me - although guys with exquisite leg muscles in tight shorts was motivating.  I was glad when “cruisers” got stylish. I remembered riding one handed down from an aunt when I was about 10. It was a 1940's vintage - heavy - fat, fat tires. I used to stand (yes, stand) on the seat while it was moving. Circus girl. I can still draw that feeling into my sensory and visual memory. So, I got a sit-up-straight girly bike. Retro styling of course. I love it.

Last night I went on my first outing. With the Tucson Bicycle Belles to see the Diana Vreeland documentary at the Loft. She is such an inspiration for being exactly who you are. I wore a 60’s LBD (little black dress – although not so little on me) and pearls - a Vreeland must. It was so fun. As I rode home by myself, the huge moon illuminated my way and cast that eerie blue-ish light. It was invigorating - both the slight coolness in the air and that feeling of “doing it”.

Sitting up, pedaling along in a skirt, I couldn’t help but have this music in my head. It is the time of the witches after all. Next on my list: a wicker bike basket and a small black dog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vacuuming With Leonard Cohen

… is a metaphor for the last several days: ennui and productivity - despite recent postings about hitting my stride and finding a rhythm.  That was short lived. Another myth busted. I thought by now I’d have a lovely rhythm – a bit of a balanced routine … that the feeling of grounded-ness and engagement would sustain. Maybe at some point. But now, no. Now I see that it is more like fits and starts. Today I got up on a roof to do some patching, varnished a door, hauled some stuff, picked up a loaner bike from a friend, did some housework - all long on the list  - and all by 2pm. This in contrast to two previous days of … ennui … a “is this it?” feeling and general lethargy (dare I use the “B” word?). And getting into the Halloween candy.

So I’m seeing that, just like when I was working, some days are as much about perseverance as anything. Hanging with that feeling of discontent till something shifts (energy level, attitude, external circumstances).

Leonard is talking to me as I write:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.

Thank you. I needed that reminder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Apology my former husband and significant others: I was so caught up. Trying to figure out myself and my life. Trying to make a living in a meaningful and financially sustaining way. Couldn’t pay proper attention. Hectic. Stressed. Not present. I’m better now. Sorry.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Re: Grounding

Just got back from four days of camp, hike, natural hot springs – mostly in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. I went through the eastern part on the last day of my road trip and made a note to come back as soon as I could. So when my friend Chris asked if I was up for a trip I jumped on it. (See some details and sound recordings from the Chiricahua night on Chris’ blog: Wild Mountain Echoes

It was cold at night and in the mornings. I knew when I left Tucson it would be and I brought layers. But the actual experience of 40 degrees can be a shock to the system when you live in the desert. It was perfect hike weather/temp in the daytime though. We did several 3 mile-or-so hikes, which, in the Gila, means innumerable river crossings. The Gila River would be called a stream or creek in the Midwest – but out here, it’s a river – about 40 feet wide and knee deep. So you’re walking through it (cold yet refreshing) and in the rich black mud on the banks as you step in and out of the river. And so green and lush – reeds, cattails, moss. I felt really “there”. In it. Literally in it when we got to a hot spring seeping out of the rocks, pooled up by a primitive rock wall.

So, with a really decent hike last week and four days/three nights out there this week, I’m really starting to get re-grounded. When I was working I was grounded in work and home – and work travel. When I had a different lifestyle in the early 90’s I was grounded in home and the natural world - work fit in-between. Just a different orientation to life and myself. (See the August 7, 2012 post: Getting “Out There” Again for more about that.) I’m getting that back. I’m more grounded  - centered - when I come home. Deeper each time I get out. And when I’m out there, I’m getting my legs under me again. Remembering what I need to be in the natural world safely and comfortably.

All-in-all, I’m starting to get into a rhythm - the rhythm of a balanced, well-lived life. I’m getting a glimpse of what Mahatma Gandhi promised:

Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request and everything your heart desires must come to you.

He was a former lawyer too you know. Although I doubt you’ll be seeing me in a linen diapery type thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hitting My Stride

Interesting (to me anyway). Just as I had revised my attitude to changes happening in their own time and extended my perspective on what is a long time to accomplish things, I seem to be hitting my stride. I think it was jump-started by an uptick in my physical activity so that I’m doing at least one thing, and some days, two things, that contribute to enhanced fitness. Seems like that is the key for me. Metabolism calibrating up a bit. A bit of an endorphin infusion. That, and fun things to look forward to have appeared without much effort (I’m so lucky to have friends with a variety of interests). So, I have more energy and momentum. Yet still a sense of calm. Yep. This is good.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just the Beginning

In contrast to my new-ish “in their own time” attitude about the  longer term lifestyle (and me-style ) changes, I’m still amazed at how long it takes me to get task-like things done (big and little) . For example, I’ve had a stack of things to drop off at the Goodwill drop box by the front door for almost two weeks. (Is that long? Seems like it in that there weren’t 40+ hours of work in those weeks.) 

Starting out, I had some vague notion that by six weeks in, I’d have picked up the pace a bit. So I keep expecting that any day now I will (or should) be noticeably working through that to-do list. Why. I don’t need to. That is so work-world thinking; so time-urgency perception. And I actually have gotten quite a bit done bit-by-bit. I guess I’m thinking that I’ll be “done” at some point. That’s silly. I will get through some of the extraordinary things that have been on the list for years (e.g. gutters and water caching system) but there will always be on-going.

My friend Jane said I'm still recuperating. She's had friends who mostly slept ... for months. Indeed, there is an urban myth/folklore that it takes about two years to settle in after retirement. I’m not sure where I’ve read or heard it, but I’ve repeated it to others as fact so it must be true. So barely six weeks, part of which I was on a road trip, isn’t very long really. I think I need a change of perspective on what is a long time. I need to see this as just the beginning of a long next phase of my life. I had better work on a shift of thinking. I need to re-read the Many Things in Their Own Time post! 

Not A Typical Couple of Days – or Is It?

Today I got up. Did some emailing. Went to Pilates. Ran some errands.  Did hours of yard work.  All by 1:30. Then cleaned-up. Made a finance-related call and filed a few papers. Did some more emailing. Went to intro Flamenco class (second class). Picked up a couple things I needed for a hike tomorrow. Made an actual dinner - with organic chard I got today. And watched Snow White and the Huntsman (Kristen Stewart displays all three of her facial expressions and her characteristic chest heaving. Charlize Theron is delicious as the evil queen. The guy playing the Huntsman is Heath Ledger’s heir apparent. The dwarves are heroic. And they all inhabit a medieval world a few valleys over from the Lord of the Rings folks – dark, dirty and wet - with fairies in one of the forests.  It was worth the one dollar Redbox rental. Just thought you might want to know.) Tomorrow I’m going on a decent day hike in the Huachucas. Like I said in my last  post: This is getting really good!

Many Things in Their Own Time

Things happen as they will. Should. In there own time. Not on a time-table, in snippets wedged between workdays or travel. For example, enhancing my fitness. This is gradual. I’m tired when I do what used to be not that much cardio work. So what. I’ll just keep doing more. Gradually. Over time. It will get (is getting) better. Maybe this is true of many things. I thought I’d dive into cooking after years of “assembling” and microwaving what can hardly be called meals. Instead I have slowly, steadily started making this and that - experimenting a little. These things happen as and when they are meant to happen. Not urgent. Not forced. Yet my effort - initiation - is needed. Wrenching me out of habits of many years that are no longer fit for how I want to live (and who I want to be) now. This is starting to get really good.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I Read A Book

There is nothing very momentous about this that warrants such a pronouncement but
if you have been following my progression from magazine article to short stories, you know it is an accomplishment… a culmination of the expansion of my formerly minuscule attention span for reading.  I read a whole book, by which I mean a novel. I read instead of listening to news. I read instead of puttering in the morning. I read instead of watching TV in the evening (post road trip I seem to have kicked that habit - yay).

It was about nuns. Don’t ask. It was one of those books given to me randomly a couple years ago so I picked it up. Had study group questions in the back, so must have been popular when it came out a few years ago. Takes place in 1570 when not a small number of women were conscripted to the convent by their families because of their weak marriage prospects by reasons of dowry, deformity or temperament, so it was as much about historical context as the actual story. It was intriguing enough to pull me along to the end. Almost lost me half-way through when the main character (a novice nun) was about to escape to be with her love and then was caught. I thought it was heading toward a story of them on the lam. But no.

Anyway, I know this isn't a book report. The point being: I actually read an entire book in the span of less than a week. And now I’m hooked. So, if you have any recommendations, please let me know. I have had enough about nuns though.

Wine With Lunch

I didn’t sleep well last night for whatever reason and had to get up a bit earlier than usual to meet a friend for coffee. I came back to an email that meant well but touched some old hurts. So, I was cranky.  Last night I had picked up a book I started quite some time ago: An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. It’s not so much a cookbook, although there are plenty of recipes, as a book about cooking and food. I was inspired. I cooked some brown rice. I put it in a bowl with some parmesan cheese and snipped in some fresh parsley. As I was enjoying it at my light-filled kitchen table, I thought “This reminds me of Italy.  And it calls for some wine – I can have some wine!” (I never had alcohol at lunch while working) So I included a (small) glass of inexpensive pinot grigio I had on hand for whatever.

And I happen to be reading the chapter on the balm of connecting with food and sense-memories when feeling resentful or otherwise out-of-sorts and the author includes this quote from Hemmingway:

As I ate the oyster with  strong tastes of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans

It wasn’t oysters on my plate, but I could totally relate.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Road Trip Highlights Having Little to do with Retirement

Being on this road trip wasn’t much different that trips I had taken before, except that my mind didn’t occasionally wonder to work issues and I had more flexibility in planning when to go and to come home. But I have retained the visuals and sense of the experience longer than I was able to when working. So I thought I’d share some highlights – in order of appearance.

  • Once I hit Flagstaff, there were bright yellow roadside flowers and flowering bushes, some spreading all the way into the forest, all along the northern part of the trip.

  • Peering into the Grand Canyon with crowds of tourists, most of whom were speaking languages other than English – and some I didn’t recognize. This, coupled with just looking in, rather than hiking in as I had done before, made for a somewhat odd experience.

  • I drove out of the Grand Canyon NP by the eastern route for the first time. Reeeaallly beautiful. You see the Canyon become shallower and the river more accessible. And an unfamiliar set of outcroppings and features.

  • The first quietest night in memory: In Navajo. About 15 miles NW of Ganado. The landscape was flat and, with recent rains, green – that grey-ish sagy green made up of bunches of grasses and sage, close to the ground. In the surrounding distance were bluffs and mesas of deep earthy reds, browns, burnt sienna. My friend’s Aunt lives in a small house with solar electricity, and the most luxurious outdoor privy I’ve been in, with a number of dogs, a large white pet goat (sleeps on the porch) and a small heard of sheep. And several out-buildings and a hogan (traditional Navajo dwelling). I slept out in my truck (I have a camper shell and comfy air mattress). It was so quiet it was almost unnerving. Not. A sound. The stars were stunning. I could see the whole Milky Way like a cloud across the sky. I don’t know if it was road buzz, the occasional barking of the dogs, or having read too much Carlos Castaneda in the early 70’s (Yaqui not Navajo, I know) but I had a hard time falling asleep.

  • Counter Culture (not a movement – a cafĂ© a short walking distance from my friends’ house in Santa Fe). Order at the counter (of course) and take a number. I sat at a small table on the patio. Groups of stylish, attractive middle-aged men having conversations. With each other. About what I’m not sure but I’m pretty confident it wasn’t about sports. An array of beautiful middle-aged (and beyond) women. Some of them in what I call the five-hundred-dollar-disheveled-artist look.

  • I saw Robert Redford close up at a gallery opening (of his wife’s work). You know that saying that people look “larger than life” in their movie roles. It’s true. Still hanging in though, for a 76 year old guy.

  • Did a nine-mile hike. Fairly little up and down. But still – pretty good. Aspen colors were half-way between green and yellow.

  • The second quietest night in memory: My Santa Fe friends have a long strip of property (used to be a bean field) up a hill from a small town near Las Trampas/Tuchas NM - literally where the Milagro Bean Field War movie was filmed (speaking of Robert Redford). There is a “cabin” and studio building – built by the husband half. Think something out of Dwell. Beautifully designed so that the small, compact space is used to best advantage like on a boat or a train. Clean lines. No electricity. Lots of windows and glass in the doors. I slept in the studio.  It was so quiet that I could hear the sound made by those huge black ravens as their wings flap against the air. Woosh. Woosh. Woosh. Heaven.

  • Much anticipated watercolor lesson from same said husband (a talented and accomplished artist) while we were up there. I thought he’d give me a brush, paper and few tips so I could attempt to recreate the scene before me. No. We painted squares and lines just to get the feel of the paint, understand the differences in each color (which have different properties because they are made of different things). It was fab-u-lous. I learned so much in that hour. There is a lot to watercolor painting. So next time you think “I could have done that”: think again. No, you couldn’t. 
So, thanks for indulging me in my little travelogue (and a somewhat long post). We’ll be back to the topic at hand soon enough. The post-trip centeredness is really setting in.