and – up close – if you choose – you will see the foreleg of a winter-dressed pony, the extra cold-weather-coat trapping hair next to the skin of the horse, keeping him warmer. he is stopped, gazing at the distant field, ready to canter into it, the exploding of freedom of movement.
and you blink and it is a cattail. one of many in the field, waiting in the marsh through autumn and winter for early spring. as many as 250,000 seeds, white fluff sailing and transported by birds and breezes. and the life cycle continues.
it is winter in my studio. the rhizomes are gathering underground, together with the cattails. maybe around the spring equinox, maybe a bit later, the shoots will rise out of the ground – like a phoenix out of ashes – and new sprouts will grow and grow. the cycle germinates and pollinates and seeds will fly again. the birds and the wind and i will play for you – seeds and notes flying.
in the meanwhile, i wear my winter coat. it is keeping the heat in. it protects me. insulation for shelter in this long and cold winter, to shield in the storms, to brace in this fallow.
but soon, soon, with the sun and fresh air, the pony will run free.
my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.
i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.
from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.
“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”
we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.
i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.
right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.
maybe one of the reasons i love brochures so much is the chance they give you of picturing yourself there. a good glossy pages-long-fold-out brochure can transport you, make you dream, put you there.
this morning we were talking about bus tours. not a fan of buses, i am not likely to participate in many long bus tours in upcoming days and years. i know that a bus tour will take a group of people to the highlights, the places-you-don’t-wanna-miss, the photo-ops. but i rail against experiencing those things at the same time as everyone else, in the same way, taking photo turns in front of the cliff edge, the monument, the cathedral. i realized that i would rather miss a few things along the way just so that we could do it ourselves, take our sweet time, breathe it in, immerse in our surroundings, really feel a place before moving on to the next. there may be times that a bus – for a jaunt here or there – might be necessary, but i don’t really want to see everything-on-a-big-trip out the window of a coach line.
my sweet momma and poppo, thinking ahead – and also not bus people (so now you know where i get this) – ordered a vw bug to pick up in germany back in 1971 when they went on an extended roadtrip (clearly genetic) in europe. they tooled around small towns and backroads all over, my mom in her glory with maps, my dad relying on her sense of direction. they sometimes slept at relatives’ homes, sometimes at inns, sometimes at small hostels, and even sometimes in their little bug in a field, once waking up next to a gigantic pile of dung covered with plastic tarps and tires. they adventured and missed stuff, but they immersed themselves and the stories from that time were delicious tales. the missed-stuff didn’t matter. the stuff and people they saw did.
i imagine us – as we watch pct hikers and john muir trail hikers – someday – hopefully – on these trails. i imagine us in all the national parks in utah. i imagine more time hiking our favorite trail in breck. i imagine us chatting with the owners of the general store in putney, vermont. i imagine us walking a bit of the salt path. i imagine us on the cliffs of ireland and the amalfi coast and maybe in the brilliant blue and white of santorini someday. like mr rogers’ “picture picture” i can see the video in my mind’s eye. it satisfies the yearning for now and gives me photos of dreamy quality, viewmaster brochures in my heart.
we spent an evening at the botanic garden, wandering. we didn’t sit down on this particular bench, but i can see us there, feel us there, surrounded by green.
we missed a few of the plant collections that evening, we missed the greenhouse. but we immersed in the paths winding around the garden and breathed differently upon our leave than we had upon our arrival. and that made all the difference.
anonymity is not a strong suit of airbnb. and, for us, that’s exactly the point. the relational piece of staying in places other real people own does not usurp privacy. but it offers a glimpse into lives – those which you may never have peeked into otherwise. without reservation, i would say that most all of the airbnbs we have stayed at have been owned by someone with whom we’d love to be friends.
the window that opens when you unlock the front door to the tiny house, the condo, the bungalow, the loft, the cabin, the cottage is an invitation. on the most basic level, it is an opportunity to see how someone else makes a space a home, how it’s designed, how it’s appointed. it is an opportunity to reconstruct – in your mind – something about your own home, an idea to take with you. it’s a chance – for a bit of time – to experience another place as-if-you-live-there: to wander and cook and porch-sit and immerse, even a little. when you stay in the vicinity of the owner’s place it changes things, for then, on a whole ‘nother level, it’s an opportunity to see morsels of how someone else lives, their real-life. and when you have the chance to meet the person or people who host where you are staying? that is a gift.
sitting on the adobe open-air-to-the-mountains-balcony off the bedroom in ridgway, in rocking chairs on the front porch on the farm in kentucky, at the table overlooking snowmass, under the après sign in breckenridge, watching people go by in tiny brevard. it is not without wonder we think about places we will stay someday.
and, i guess, not surprisingly, there’s something about all these places that makes us say, “we could live there.” something different than what any hampton inn, our hotel chain of choice, can offer.
it is not randomly that i pick out places to stay when we travel. i carefully consider location, amenities, the presence of light, whether or not we can cook, if there is outdoor space, a fireplace, a kitchen counter where we can chat. i look at pictures and read reviews and one will always jump out as a place that looks like us. so not so random.
and i guess it is not random either that we meet people – it boils down to the people – who stand out. they are living lives and opening themselves up to others. in providing more personal lodging they are reinforcing the humanness and opportunity of travel. they remind us – again and again – to be just a little more vulnerable, just a little more open. we don’t walk in someone else’s shoes, but to stay in someone else’s home, even for a night, has given us the tiniest chance to know them and to get where they are.
brazen. how many of us have been this brazen? to make an assumption, to form an opinion, to decide to dislike, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the idiom, “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” yet, our perspective often remains stubbornly in one camp and we cling to the sideofthestory we heard, professing our disdain, without even a mere effort to understand, to measure, to even hear the other side. and then we haughtily hold tight to our narrow-scoped opinion and aim our arrows of brazen judgment. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
guilty. how many of us have been guilty of this? to not care enough about someone’s reputation, someone’s livelihood, someone’s word, with no information, having asked no questions, having had no real conversation, having chosen sides under the dark cloak of one-sided story. we have all heard the proverb, “those in glass houses should not throw stones.” yet, we forgo our own flawedness, our own misdeeds, our own obvious hypocrisy, to hurl pebbles and stones and out-and-out boulders at others, efforts to raise ourselves up by pushing someone else down, guilty of power-mongering in places where that should be more closely examined. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
sad. how many of us feel sad, having lost friendships, relationships, potential lifelong allies, colleagues, having aligned ourselves with people who have brazenly been guilty of gauging someone else simply because they did not know the othersideofthestory? we have judged, forgetting our own flaws. we have pummeled, forgetting our own vulnerability. we have turned our backs, forgetting our own need for fairness and truth from others. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
devastated. how many of us have been at the center of the firing squad, muzzled and treading water, stuck in inertia, unable to give voice to the othersideofthestory, in the center of misinformation, incomplete information, an absolute lack of information, opinions and dislike forming from the dust of others’ untruths, others’ prejudices, others’ agenda? devastated that there is so much collateral fallout, so much loss, simply because they didn’t hear your side of the story. it’s shocking. and completely not shocking.
but it is most definitely this: brazen.
and we all, at some time or another, are most definitely this: guilty.
and it feels most definitely this: sad.
and it causes most definitely this: devastation.
perhaps we need put on shoes and lay down our stones.
there is nothing quite like the last strains of gabriel’s oboe(ennio morricone) falling into your heart. there is nothing quite like a break in lyrics, or like the moments after the words “and the world will be as one” (john lennon). in music the rests grant time for digesting, for processing, for evoking, for wrapping around you. it is golden time, those rests, and it makes everything else – all other notes, all harmony, all orchestration, all lyrics – make sense.
the music tells the story. it is honest and forthright; it is transparent. it does not suggest innuendo, nor does it allude or insinuate or imply. it does not squelch the truth or warp the narrative. one note follows another until it rests and gives the listener time to breathe, to catch up, to absorb it. its words – the notes that are played – are golden. its silence is golden. it is truth.
and – silence is not golden.
“listen to silence. it has much to say.” rumi may have been speaking of the silence of the snowfall, the silence of the sunrise. like the golden silence of music, these silences fall with grace. they are not silences with implication nor are they incendiary.
equally as powerful as graceful silences of rest is the silence of the person-who-does-not-speak who brings inference, who hints, who implies, who, because of a deliberate lack of words, causes others to jump to conclusions, to opine, to form judgements without the basis of knowledge. powerful seems the person who does not speak up, speak for, speak against, who remains silent, crediting correctness but acting out of intentional design. but this is not the power of rightness, despite any display of righteousness. it is not the power of the powerful; instead it is weakness.
to not speak up, to be silent. to not speak for, to be silent. to not speak against, to be silent. to not speak questions, to not speak objections. to not communicate in honest words, to sit in quiet insinuation, to encourage blind compliance, passive and complicit acceptance, blind trust, to encourage conjecture. weakness.
it is it is on our shoulders to choose our words carefully. it is also on our shoulders to choose our silences in that same way. should our public statements be rigorously measured by integrity and responsibility and truth? should they be steeped in justice and fairness and respect?
yes. they hear your words. and yes. they hear your silence.
this world will never be the same. we need to ponder, we need to dream, we need to imagine:
a better place, a more fair place, a place that is based on equity and equality, kindness and compassion. a place that assumes virtue and intends the same. a place that protects its peoples, that encourages individuals to care for each other. a place that doesn’t incite rancor, celebrate the weapons of violence, or create enmity and spite. a place where the downtrodden are lifted up and those with excess are generous. a place where inhabitants don’t self-aggrandize or strategize to find ways for more-more-more, ways that take from those with less, ways that undermine those in need. a place that doesn’t normalize language of vitriol, hatred, and antagonism. a place where all races are equivalent, all genders are respected, all ethnicities are indistinguishably included. a place where the environment counts and sustaining it beyond our own time on this good earth is a priority. a place that recognizes the sacred in the out-of-doors, the borrowing of this dirt, this water, this air for the short span of time we are here. a place where we are always seeking ways to better life for each other, to enhance daily living, health, happiness. a place of truth. a place of goodness.
yes. this world needs your good imagination. or we will never get there.
wendy (aka saul aka ben) and i have this thing about unicorns. well, unicorns and bubbles and rainbows. i can’t look at any of those without thinking about her. individually we look especially for unicorn “stuff” for each other; those tend to be small gifts we send from time to time. i have a unicorn calendar that offers pretty straight-ahead advice each day, without mincing words. i have unicorn socks. i have a stuffed unicorn on my piano in my studio. my new favorite unicorn thing is a white plastic stretch unicorn pen she sent me for my birthday…hard to explain…a unicorn with a rainbow mane that looks a lot like a dachshund and is a pen. yep, too much information. you are probably thinking i am too ‘old’ for unicorns, but i beg to differ. one is never too old for unicorns. they are happy and free and magical. plus, as a person who has been horse-crazy since girlhood, anything that even vaguely resembles a horse gets my vote.
d often tells me that i have a wild imagination. that works against me as well as for me. i will imagine all sorts of things – both good and bad. sometimes this is an opportunity; i often find myself imagining things, ideas or plotting while i am blowing my hair dry (this seems to be a time of increased-imagination-activity for me.) or i will be off and running in my imagination on long drives or walking in the woods. sometimes this imagining thing can make you nervous, making up stuff before it even happens. but the word imagine conjures up many things for me. john lennon’s song ‘imagine’ or mercy me’s song ‘i can only imagine’. both have beautiful lyrics; both imagine places and experiences of great beauty and and grace and goodness.
one day when d was drawing our chicken marsala i asked him to include a unicorn. “for wendy,” i said. we decided on the words “give full rein to your imagination” to go along with this drawing of chicken and his unicorn. but when i was designing the cartoon nugget, i added the word “reign”….it felt right. after all, what could be the worst thing if we all let our imaginations be sovereign? if we imagined a world of peace and harmony and rainbows and bubbles. and yes, maybe even people on unicorns wearing creativity-tiaras. full reign.