Summer Ivy

Ah, the fresh green blankets and increased bird and beast activity in the woods:  always delightful as spring leaps into summer. With it, of course, comes that dark cousin to those winsome thoughts: poison ivy.

It’s thriving well running along the ground or starting to climb trees. It’s a familiar devil in my life, having had one (and grateful only one) encounter with it back in 2002. I got it so bad that after two rounds of steroids, which apparently the rash interpreted as an aphrodisiac, I had the nasty stuff over 70% of my body (thankfully, not on the face or on/around “other” delicate bits.

Enter the big guns:  a prescription for a gallon of goopy steroid cream and the instructions:  take an old bedsheet, rip into narrow strips, dunk strips into the goop, then wrap my rash areas up like an Egyptian mummy. Hang around doing nothing and not moving much for two hours or so, twice daily. Ugh.

While inconvenient to say the least, it did kick p.i.’s butt finally. Still, after a week of channeling a bad Hollywood film mummy dressed by an out-of-work costume tech who worked really cheaply, doc gave me a dose of strong-as-they-come steroid pills. I thought afterward that he must have gotten those from a vet since the dosage seemed more appropriate for a moose or  elephant. The one-two punch did the trick, but I was not a pleasant person to be around during that last week of those hormone-mugging steroids.

I do recall when I was removing the old, rotted wood deck behind the house how pretty those ivy vines with the purple flowers were climbing the trees deck wound around. Might as well pull them off while I’m at it. Not quite, but almost, a Darwin Award entry.

Sunday, May 3 – Journal Snippets

A bit late this week. Been some churning in my mind about how much I want to share here, so delays on posting.

Sharing these unedited journal bits helps keep me encouraged to journal most days and think more deeply. These Sunday posts also give me a concise weekly review of the more impactful journal moments.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
– Lao Tzu

 

April 26 – These times are such an amazing opportunity that I must take full advantage of and must ensure that when things normalize again and roaming is possible, I want to look back and be pleased both with the progress and the body of work produced.

 

April 27 – So many tasks and thing to do all of a sudden it seems. Need to relieve the pressure a bit and through routine and focus in zones during day, should settle things. Things are jelling to what’s important and what should go away or slow down.

 

April 27 – But my reading list is gigantic! Maybe Blinkist can help on some of the B reads. This is why I need two hours dedicated to reading every day. Plus, more pure sit and think time. Maybe my coffee drinking should that reflective time and not while online or eating.

 

April 28 – Good sessions albeit split this morning due to necessary Trader Joe’s run. But wrote one new poem, tweaked another, wrote/posted on blog, and a draft of a good essay on minimalism for Medium this time. May excerpt back to the blog on it.

 

May 1 – Missed morning habits and may tomorrow. How does that make me feel? A bit of an imposter on my goals, but needing to give the body more sleep for now. Seems to be more important.

 

May 2 – My thoughts are like shifting sands. One day treasures unearthed to awe and surprise, the next only the windswept waves on the dunes changing a landscape of sameness. Such is the churning of thoughts in my mind lately.

 

Are you journaling in these dark times? Let me know if you are in the comments, or if you’re just starting and have questions.

Balancing Connection With Disconnection

I’ve been pondering this interesting conflict we’re experiencing now, and hoped to write a piece on it. But after a few hours working on an idea ahead of that one,  I took a woods walk. Normally I don’t like to disrupt my morning creative time, but on rain days I will if the only rainless window of time choses to interrupt me.

While in the woods, I listened to an On Being podcast, where Krista Tippett addressed this dilemma beautifully, resolving my interest in developing the topic. One of her listeners posed this question:  “How do we disconnect physically while remaining emotionally, socially, connected to others?” to which Krista’s replies were well-reasoned and on target. Among other thoughts, this one resonated with me:

So one thing I’ve become aware of —  that I’ve never thought about before — is how much energy we actually draw from each other, raw energy, at a primal, animal level, when we are in the room together. And that doesn’t communicate through the screen — the view of someone’s face and, to some extent, the emotions that can be read and responded to there, the voice, which I feel is so embodied.

Those of us growing up in our formative years before the shadow of technology permanently set itself across our culture, see this technology of connectedness we’re exploiting to good purpose as a miracle and a savior of sorts. Imagine how this time would be without it, and without the Internet, evils and halos alike. We are immensely fortunate to have this sanity lifeline in these days of isolation.

And while, as a classic introvert, I’m not only handling this time pretty well, but my work is prospering because of it, there are still those moments:

What’s interesting to me, too, about this is that I am such an introvert. And there’s part of me that’s very comfortable being alone. But this thing I’m talking about, this is not an introverted thing. It’s not an extroverted thing. It’s a human thing; it’s an animal thing.

If you’re not already subscribing to OnBeing, it’s worth it to do so. But in case you don’t, here’s a link to this episode you can listen to or read the transcript on her answer to the question about connecting in times of disconnecting.

Media Off, Nature On

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. – Gertrude Stein


No stranger to the siren, healing call of a media blackout, I’ve used this technique countless times to regain my senses. While we practice social distancing (shouldn’t we be calling that “physical distancing” since we’re socially engaging so much online?), perhaps the time’s come for a little media detaching, too.

One’s motivation for shutting off the usual channels is easy to find. I cannot recall a moment in my history when the noise and levels of information and misinformation, of facts and blatantly false truths, of a federal government so intent and addicted to lying to us and following self interests over people’s lives than standing up and, well, leading us out of this nightmare, has screamed “turn it off” as much as now.

Truth is, once unplugged from traditional and most viral forms of news, you’re not really isolated from what’s happening. I used to struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to isolate from external noise and remain informed. Either through email or online research or word of mouth, you’ll hear about what’s important to know, even if the TVs unplugged, the newspaper’s cancelled, you’ve walked away from Facebook and Twitter, and you’re avoiding the Internet’s ground zero for a tug-of-war between good and evil, truth and lies:  Google. Some people can separate the noise from the essence and find the kernels of truth, but I’m not one of those it seems. Or not one who’s willing to invest enough time to dig that deep and prefer to spend my time on other pursuits.

I remember the first time I enacted a media blackout during the 2004 election. After the debacle and theft of the 2000 Presidency, the noise just became too much to endure. I stayed informed during Obama’s run, but in 2016 the nightmare of the election and constant barrage of reasons this candidate was unfit on so many levels to run our country, and a media that seemed to act more like a game show with an agenda to make money than tell it like it was, a media blackout saved my sanity. Sadly, as a long-term NPR listener to that staple of true reporting, I blacked them out too since they also seemed to have gone over to the “news as entertainment” agenda.

The antidote (for me at least) to reverse the impact of media noise where verbal diarrhea and fantasy masquerading as facts abound, is turning to nature. Long walks in nature help tether you to sanity if you stay plugged in, but become restorative in reconnecting to your thoughts and ideas, suffocated and unheard by the flood of news and information from every direction.

No matter what time you get out of bed, go for a walk. The demons hate it when you get out of bed. Demons hate fresh air. – Ingmar Bergman

The one regret in unplugging from media (but can be easily caught up on later) are on the fascinating research and learnings from the science of Covid-19 and the eye-opening reports of how quickly the Earth is reversing human’s damage since global human impact is a fraction of what it was mere months ago. From the clear water in the Venice canals, to the countless sunken wrecks now visible below the surface of Lake Michigan, to how quiet the Earth’s become as surface seismographic sensors are now reporting tremor levels once only gained from sensors buried deep beneath the planet’s surface, it’s an amazing thing to witness. The science is showing our efforts to reduce humanity’s burden on the planet can make an enormous difference. Whether we’ll learn the lesson and civilization adjusts its actions, or we’ll go overboard in returning to (and possibly exceeding) our bad and wasteful ways, only time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ll continue my media blackout (admittedly sometimes more of a grayout) to keep my perspective, sanity, and ability to live each day without fear, while focusing on doing my work. I can, and should, dwell on only things I can control, and listening or watching things I have no control over is not how I want to live each day.

Morning Glory

These days I rise early. It’s not just eagerness to get into my morning creative zone; some credit must go to that arc of life eventually making us all morning people.

Most mornings after shutting off the alarm, I try to get to my desk and begin writing relatively quickly. In between there’s making the bed, getting dressed (despite jammies and bathrobe being an allowable fashion these days, I try to dress as if going work, which I am), grabbing a bite of breakfast, and that royal reward of morning coffee.

My morning coffee ritual is different than when making a cup after lunch. You’d think this early I’d be in a hurry to make and drink it, but just the opposite. While my senses are not fully active yet, it’s my moment to catch my thoughts and ease into the day. Besides, I have to give some time for the inevitable internal squabble between mind and body to settle over whose dumb idea it was to get up this early.

The beginning is autonomic: pull out the coffeemaker, position it on the counter, plug it in, fill the water reservoir. From there, however, the art of the ritual begins. Some morning it’s about selecting and grinding the beans, other mornings it’s deciding which grounds to use. Either way, the careful laying in of filter, adding grounds, and turning on the machine begins moments of mindfulness as the magic machine makes my brew.

As I start the machine, I listen to its familiar sounds: waking the heating element, heating the water, activating the pump to flow the boiling water over the grounds. There’s always that pregnant pause as the machine goes silent before it delivers a precise, thin stream into my waiting cup. And as I watch mesmerized most mornings, this steady, clear stream slowly changes into a dark, rich brown.

Soon I’m rewarded with a cup of steaming, slightly creamed coffee. From there I sit, sip, and let my mind wander and ponder on the possibilities of the day before me. And when I can see the full inside bottom of the cup, it’s time to go to work.

Sunday, April 26 – Journal Snippets

Sharing these unedited journal bits helps keep me encouraged to journal most days and think more deeply. These Sunday posts also give me a concise weekly review of the more impactful journal moments.

“Accept what comes from silence.”
– Wendell Berry

 

 

April 19 – Early rise–I really enjoy days when this happens–and already feel very productive. Trader Joe’s day so the stark reality of what’s “out there” will be felt this morning.

 

April 20 – My reaction on media noise is a bit off target. The stoic in me knows “the obstacle is the way” so being uncomfortable with news and then ignoring it is not ideal. Pick & choose, read what you need to, but find a way to handle it and stay sane at the same time.

 

April 23 – What is home to me? A place that holds my worldly goods…also a refuge, one neat & tidy, organized to my ways and quirks. Safe from weather, quiet, able to open to fresh air, warming sun in the winter. And yet, I’m drawn to wander from home to explore new areas see nature, spend time in reflection….Where is this fabled, ideal home? Complicated.

 

April 24 – What is it (or them) that I really want to do? Perhaps a better framing to start with is how do I want my days to flow and what do I want to emphasize, compared to avoid?…I’m pretty sure what I want to do. No sense continuing to write about it here. Been the same for a long time now.

 

April 25 – Finished watching Maria Popova’s Universe in Verse. Fanned more flames in my growing interest in poetry. Learning that poetry can touch me in three ways:  not at all, enraptured through the language and word art, or profoundly, as though, like back when I remodeled my 1029s bungalow house I’d peel a layer of paint off the wall to reveal a previously unknown, yet interesting and telling, layer beneath in colors and hues not imagined.

nota bene:  Quote heard spoken from Krista Tippett:  “Poetry is language that lands in our bodies.”

 

Are you journaling in these dark times? Let me know if you are in the comments, or if you’re just starting and have questions.