Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Lesson Learned

"The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door." 
~ Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs, "Women Who Run With the Wolves"

It takes me by surprise when someone sees something I’ve done and comments on how brave I am. My snap response is to say that  "I am the most terrified person I know.”

It seems like nothing is small enough to not cause me to respond with fear.

Yet fear usually doesn’t stop me from doing something, so maybe feeling terrified and doing the thing anyway does make a person brave.

If I let fear win, I would rarely leave my house. I wouldn't be able to hold the job I have. I couldn't fly on a plane. I would rarely talk to anyone beyond yes and no answers, because the fear of looking stupid or saying the wrong thing would freeze the words in my throat.

At times, my panic is so bad I think I'm going to pass out or even die from it. My chest gets tight. I get dizzy. My muscles twitch. My mouth goes dry. I get sick to my stomach. And my heart starts flapping around like a bird who's trapped in the garage and is so panicked, they don’t see the open garage door that I’m coaxing them towards.

I do the same thing with myself. There is a lot of coaxing going on here...  “Come on Maery, doing something is better than doing nothing. So do something."

Sometimes, the things I do are my attempt to cover up just how uncertain of myself I am. So why give myself away by writing about fear?

Because I don't like being ashamed of my personality or the things that I like or the things that I don't like. So I rebel by questioning the belief that certain personality types and ways of being in this world are more valuable than others.

There's nothing wrong with baby steps and with taking it slow. People who are able to do things without ever worrying about them, they are not better, stronger people. They are just wired differently.

It helps that I’m as old as I am and have enough experience to know that I won’t die from fear. And if I face it, I'll have gotten to do something I want or need to do. If I just take one step after another forward I can get past that fear and stop feeling it. I can quit obsessing about “What am I going to do?” or “How will I do that?”

And move on to something else, which may or may not carry the fear factor with it.

Even though fear doesn’t actually go away for good, like I wish it would, I’m more comfortable with it. More willing to push through it because along the way, I’ve discovered that most of the time, what I do turns out okay. Even when it doesn’t, because I made a mistake or ran into an unexpected obstacle, I can think through it and come up with a solution.

Or call it a lesson learned...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Higher Number Living

Remember how aging used to be something you looked forward to? How when someone asked you how old you were, you proudly held up your fingers and were so excited when it was your birthday and one more finger raised the flag?

  • At age five, you started school. 
  • At twelve, you were practically an adult. 
  • At thirteen, you were a teenager. 
  • At sixteen, you could get your driver’s license. 
  • At eighteen you could vote. 
  • At twenty-one you could drink (legally). 

Each year was a progression of rights, of freedom, of access to a bigger world.

Once you are out on your own, the progression was not so clear.  You were no longer moving as one united age group towards common goals. There were so many choices.

Maybe you moved far from home or stuck close to your roots. Maybe you got married or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you had children or maybe you waited or didn’t have any children at all. There were so many ways that you could go with your life.

Exactly what are we advancing towards in our fifties and beyond? Retirement? A senior discount? Social security? Medicare? Can you imagine proudly holding up six and then five fingers to indicate you are eligible for Medicare?

As I get older, I am much more aware of my own mortality and that every day brings me closer to the end of my life. I don’t say that in some morbid way. After all, that statement becomes true right after you are born. You just aren’t that aware of it until you are at the point that it hits you like a cold bucket of water and you wish that someone had woken you up sooner.

I was recently at the park, watching children play, while I sat on the swing. There is a spaceship looking structure to climb in. A group of boys were on their way to Jupiter and were preparing to fight space aliens. You can bet they weren’t thinking much beyond who got to be the aliens and who would be the human alien fighters.

Higher number living…. there has to be some perks. There has to be some moments when you contemplate flying to Jupiter and being weightless…

- Cross-posted at Vision and Verb -

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chicken Intervention

Chicken Little, 
you darn, silly thing. 
Without a rooster, 
from eggs chicks do not spring!

Steve built a chicken tractor to allow us to move the chickens around the yard so they can scratch for bugs and whatever else they scratch for. We do our best to have happy, go-lucky chickens.

The A-frame has a handle on each end to move it. Some tractors have wheels so you can just roll the structure. Steve is still working on the nesting box that will go inside but we're afraid once we add that, Chicken Little (aka Miss Broody, the one standing on the water bottle) will immediate take up residence, thus defeating our chicken intervention intentions.

We were hoping that a change of scenery might break her broody pattern or at least force her to walk around for awhile and be outdoors. She is throwing all of the chickens off kilter by spending the entire day in the nesting box inside the coop. Spring and summer should be prime egg laying time, with long periods of sunlight and warmth, but the other two chickens are so confused by Chicken Little's behavior and by her hogging their favorite nesting box (there are two in the coop), we are lucky to get a couple eggs per week.

I'm not sure you can see in the photos, but the hen who has gone broody and spends most of the day inside has a much smaller and paler comb than the other two girls. I have yet to hear of a chicken dying from going broody but it sure doesn't seem very healthy.

By the way, it's pretty easy to get the chickens into the A-frame once you catch them in the main chicken run. Getting them back out and into the chicken run is a whole other chicken game. Steve had to lift up the edges of the structure so I could squeeze in far enough to grab and pull out a chicken without having all of them escape at once. The whole process would certainly make a funny video.

I do have a vision in my head of laying a tarp down, moving the A-frame to it. Then picking up the whole thing, tarp, tractor and chickens, and moving it to the chicken run, opening the door, and letting them run in.

Ah yes, this sort of physical activity, trial and error journey, and the laughs that go with it are what keep me young.

Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 Gardening Groove

“In the garden one can see the time coming for both fruition and for dying back. In the garden one is moving with rather than against the inhalations and the exhalations of greater wild Nature.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. “Women Who Run With the Wolves"

This has been a tough year for gardening. Wait, I think I said that last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…

This year, it's been hard to get things done between rainstorms, and the temperatures were slow to warm up.  I can't blame the weather entirely though. I had issues with heating up myself. Too much muchness again -- things that had to come first -- and I was slow getting out of the gate.

In the vein of simplifying my life this year, I didn't go as hog wild with buying a bazillion flowers for containers. And I haven't started up my outdoor salad table either, not in the name of simplification as you don’t get much simpler than the salad table and the fresh lettuce and kale and basil it provides, but because it needs to be moved off the deck until some work is done there, although I do kind of like the rustic look...

So everything is less ambitious than last year, and yet crop failure opportunities abound.

My 2014 Garden

Going green,
pink, purple, and red
In my beautious garden beds. 

Despite the cool start
Heat and humidity are here
So now it's time to have me a beer!

Monday, June 16, 2014


Sometimes we balk at embarking on an enterprise because we're afraid of being alone. We feel comfortable with the tribe around us; it makes us nervous going off into the woods on our own. 
~ Steven Pressfield, "the War of Art"

I’ve been home from my vacation/writing retreat and back to my usual routine for almost three weeks now. Only I’m not exactly in my usual routine as I’ve been trying to identify what is and isn’t working for me and change or eliminate the “isn’ts” .

Having read numerous articles about creating new habits and making changes in your life, almost all of them start with telling you to identify what you want. If you don’t know that, nothing you do is going to get you where you want to be because you won’t recognize the place.

But I want a lot of things. And not all of the things I want play nicely together.

"But what do you want above all else?" a voice from somewhere and nowhere asks.

"I want to finish my book." I reply.

"And what is frustrating that effort?"

"I am." I answer, kicking at a stone in the path.

“It sounds like you may have bumped up against the three walls that block people from reaching the World of Wordism,” the voice said.

"What are the three walls?” I asked.

  • Otherdemands — a vacuum of time and energy suckage. 
  • Stressorama — which comes in many forms or in no form at all.
  • Disorganisamo and confulusion distractimo — a whirlwind caused by multitasking and too muching," the voice answered.

"I almost forgot, there is guard who defends the walls and he is called Fear. It is almost impossible to defeat Fear but some have learned to befriend him."

"What do I do?" I asked. "Everything I try works for awhile but then I end up stuck again."

"Yes," said the voice. "You may need to make many changes in yourself and in your life but I need only one word to describe this change…"

"And what is that?" I asked.


“Be like the horse eating hay. He does not try to roll and eat hay at the same time. He does not take a nap and eat hay while he’s sleeping. He does one thing at a time.”

“Simplify,” I repeated and I headed off on my quest.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Staying with the Flow

Someone who is easily distracted, even when they try to get away from distractions, needs to remain vigilant and avoid exploring branching tributaries.

On my writing retreat, I began to notice how many times I got off course. I’d be humming along and suddenly notice that I was tweeting.
  • How did I end up on Twitter? 
  • What had I set off to do?
  • How far had I gone before I noticed I had missed my turn? 
  • What snapped me back to reality?
I’d set off to look something up in my browser, like what time of year daisies bloom and whether they are drought tolerant. This actually is something I needed to check on to make sure I wasn't setting daisies in a scene where they would never be in real life.

But my browser opened with Facebook on the page. 'Oh, look what Gloria is doing!'

Which led to liking Gloria’s status. And reading more statuses on FB. And liking and commenting and clicking on links that took me to read stories on other websites.

I would justify this with, 'Oh, that looks like an interesting story. I bet I could use that information for my next chapter so I better read it right now or I'll forget.'

Pretty soon I’d be so deep into cyberspace that I’ve forgotten what I had originally intended to do.

I had to keep drawing myself back to the task at hand, but I seemed to be wasting less time the more I trained myself to close any applications or websites that I didn’t need and heading straight to what I had set out to do.

I also have an application on my computer called “Freedom” that can be set to block your social networks and email or to block all access to the Internet (the choice I prefer to remove all temptation).

If I do the research at the moment a question pops into my mind it interrupts whatever flow I’d managed to attain.

Scrivener, the software I use for writing, has a sidebar to write notes like where I left off, what questions need to be answered, links to information I’ve used, etc. It’s a big help to someone who has thoughts frequently popping into their heads and needs to quick jot them down before they leap over the fence like a fleeing gazelle.

Now I know this has been really boring for people who could care less about the writing/creation process so how about bike riding excitement? Like I almost got eaten by a dog on my return from riding to the library!

Most of the time if a dog chases me on my bike, they’ll run to the edge of their yard and maybe a bit past that but they don’t normally chase me the length of five houses with teeth bared and the meaniest, scariest, growling bark I’ve ever heard! What the hell?!

I got bit by a dog in the ankle while riding my bike as a kid and it’s an experience I never want to repeat. So I put my feet up on the bar of my bike and prayed I kept rolling long enough that the dog would turn around without the attraction of my circling feet. And I did have two pedestrians and one woman in a car stopping and (I hope) ready to jump in and rescue me if needed.

So people, if you have a crazy dog, you should know it and keep your dog under control! Of course, I know none of you have crazy dogs. I just had to vent a bit there.

But up until that point of my ride, it was very pretty…

Well, there was the construction I had to ride through, but that was a bit of off roading fun.

I’ll just end this with a photo of a good dog. The raging river photos were taken at Jay Cooke State Park.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Carrying Too Much of Your Life With You

"Some of what I remember is only impression, shadows on the wall. What is left is the emotion, which is mostly fear and loneliness. And anger. I’m getting back into the story, only it’s not the story I had planned to tell." ~ Maery Rose

I thought my biggest problem sticking to a daily writing plan was the distractions from demands at home and the hours I lose from working a full time job. All I needed to do to kick start my book project, establish a solid writing habit, and get in the flow, was to get away to an isolated location for nine days where I could focus on writing.

All of that makes sense, certainly. One would think it would work. However, this is what I really learned on my writing retreat:

You aren’t actually getting away to write (or focus on whatever project you are taking on) if you bring too much of your life with you.

There may be other things you want to work on that you never have time for besides your main project. For me, that was photography and getting out hiking with my dog, Java.

As wonderful as doing those two things are, I went too far with both of them. Even though the parks were closer than they are from home, I still spent thirty to ninety minutes driving to them. Then after two to four hours hiking, I was way too tired to go back to writing after I returned to the cabin.

Java would have been just as happy to walk on paths around the cabin or down a nearby dirt road.

It was me that sabotaged my writing by thinking I had to do it big and go somewhere new and exciting to walk every day.

I won't even get in to what I learned about trails marked "Deadman's Trail" that lead to "Hell's Gate Trail." Okay, I'll tell you this much... I have quite an impressive bruise on my ass from that little adventure.

What I would do different next time:

  • Walk wherever I can walk without getting in my car. 
  • As a reward for all the writing I complete, pick one state park nearby to explore on one day of my trip. 
  • Schedule reading and relaxing time in to my day. 

A Word on the Photos In this Post

The photos (except the last one) were taken at Banning State Park using my new 50 mm F1.8 lens. It’s a lens meant more for portrait work or low lighting conditions, with it’s ability to let in lots of light. It let in a little too much light in many of my photos but this was a great lesson for me in understanding how exposure is affected by my settings. You can also get great bokeh, but there again, I wanted the details from the background but they were washed out. I was forced to use my brain a lot more to set up a shot with this lens, which is kind of why I bought it.

Learning Curve / Brain Failure = Less Keeper Photos 



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