Oregon My Oregon

28541762696_1576f04cea_nWe’ve taken our usual sojourn some 2300 miles from Illinois to Oregon this summer.  We do this every year, as you probably know if you’ve been following the blog for some time.

This year our schedule has let us be more relaxed, more able to just enjoy hanging out at the farm and spending time with my mom and my bro.

I’ve seen friends and other family, and hope to see more before we go.  We have some things planned, not many, and are looking forward to doing those thing, to seeing those people.

All that aside, the weather this summer in Oregon has been fantastic.  It’s been everything we always hope it will be.  Most times it doesn’t disappoint, though last year it ended up being hotter here for much of the time we were here than it was in Illinois during that same time.  Go figure.  We leave to get away from the heat and humidity (OK, also to spend time with friends and family) and it didn’t deliver last year.  This year though, it’s been spectacular.  Pretty much the best weather we could hope for.

The journey so far hasn’t been without incident.  A couple of stressful moments with Weston (he does tend to get himself into trouble now and then) and a bit of a back issue for me, but seriously, it’s been splendid so far.

Oregon my Oregon, I do love you so.

Looking With Our Better Eyes

IMG_1785I was just reading a piece I have in draft, one I never posted here.  It was a general rant about how much of what we read, see, are offered to take in via news and social media, is negative, derisive, and ugly.

I’m not going to post it.

I still agree with what I wrote.  How I’m tired of the negative, how I yearn for the positive. But I’m too old to be on the playground, and that’s what it feels like.  It feels like what it was to be out on recess, caught in the middle of some ridiculous name calling fight.  How those fights seemed to escalate into the absurd and how the passion for those ludicrous arguments seemed to escalate as well.  Escalation turned ugly, pushing turned to shoving, sometimes turning to blows.  It’s exhausting.

I want a revolution of thought, I’m getting bogged down without one.  I want kindness, ideas, offered solutions, compassion, a recognition of simple human dignity.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I think most of us feel this way, even as we sometimes find ourselves participating in those playground-like antics.

What if, for a day, we posted only something positive.  The old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If that’s you, post a photo of a sunrise or a cute puppy, or your grandchildren instead of that negative thing you are about to post.

What would that feel like?

I get up, I make my way to the french press and the tea kettle, I get my steaming mug of freshly made delicious coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I fold the laundry, I open my laptop to check email, then I head to my news feeds and finally Facebook.  I’m shocked to see news articles about new inventions and good deeds and how even though I may not agree with this politicians views on this or that thing, they have good intentions, or are good in this one area, or they’re smart.  I see that everyone seems to be posting how happy they are about this or that event, or friendship, or job opportunity, or the tasty hot meal they had last night.  I read about how this guy, running for this office, had this idea to solve this problem.  How interesting.  I hear that even though Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party people are staunch, they are fair, and understanding, and compassionate toward those who don’t agree with them.  I see kindness and forgiveness and goodwill toward fellow humans.  I see us disagreeing with respect.  I see sharing and helping and love.

Life is a matter of perception.  It always is.  We can look and see terrible things in our opponents, in the government, in each other, or we can look and see that even though we don’t agree it doesn’t make either of us a monster.  It doesn’t make either of us an idiot.  From there we can have reasonable discussions, we can listen to each other, we can gain understanding, and we can start to move forward, freed from the quagmire of distrust and finger-pointing and nastiness.  There is something to like in almost everyone.  Just as there is something to dislike.  We see what we want to see.

We can see the negative in things, in life, in each other, and we can dwell there.  If that’s the case, that’s what we will notice, that’s what we will pick up on first.  The problems, the differences, the ways in which things are not right.  Or we can see the positive in things, in life, and in each other.  We can dwell there.  In that place there’s forgiveness, problem-solving, things to build on, there’s hope.

It’s up to each of us to decide.  I’d just like it if I could wave the magic wand and for one day we helped without criticism, we offered opinions without disparaging someone else, and we talked about solutions with kindness, instead of venom and animosity.

I believe, with all my heart, each of us is doing the best we can in the world.  Making our way the best we know how.  Sometimes what we do is not that great, and most times if it’s not that great it’s because we faltered, or we were never taught a better way, or we ran into something that spiraled out of control.  We don’t know anyone else’s story.  We can’t presume to know.  We also can’t presume to think our ideas, our solutions, our way of doing things is the only way, or even the right way.  There are many paths to a good solution, there are many “right” ways.  Yes, there are wrong ways too, but we must make people feel safe in order to help them change.  We must make them feel listened to, just as we like to be listened to.  We can’t bully, or push, or strong arm people into our way of thinking.  Most of us hate being told what we should be doing, but we don’t mind being talked to, respected for our opinions, and offered other opinions in return.  We don’t mind a good chat.  We all feel we should be respected.  That doesn’t change with position or ideology or background.  We all want to be respected as human beings, and we all should be.

I don’t expect that we’ll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great if we went at things with that in our hearts.  If we were open, loving, and kind.  If we all realized we were in it together.  Facing it together.  Because we are.  None of us are in it alone.  Everything we do, small and large, effects other people, and spreads like a ripple out from ourselves.

I can only start with me.  So this is me saying to me that I’ll try to be more present, more aware of what I say, how I say it, what I put out into the world.  I’ll picture the faces of friends and family, I’ll try to act with hope and kindness and understanding.  I will try not to judge.  I’ll try to be fair.  I will try to be a better listener.

Sure, we have a lot of problems, but there are also so many things that are good and beautiful out there.  Look around.  See them.  Feel what that feels like to see them.  To use a line from The Abyss, a movie I love, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

Look with your better eyes.  Look with them, and see.

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste…”

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love – for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
― Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

Words to Live By (Part 4)

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”― Josh Billings

Dogs make things better, as do cats I suppose, if I had a cat in my life I’m sure I would think so.  I don’t.  I have dogs.  There’s so much joy there, in their eyes and the wag of their tails.  In the leaping and barking when they stand on the greeting couch after we’ve been gone for a minute or 10 hours.  In their constant need for us, to be near us.  I love them so, and that love is pure, like their love for us is pure.  Having them is a responsibility, and a pain in the ass sometimes if I must admit, but mostly it is beautiful and their eyes speak only love.  They are pure, and remind me every day about innocence and beauty and love for loves sake.

“Sometimes life is very mean: a person can spend days, weeks, months and years without feeling new. Then, when a door opens – a positive avalanche pours in. One moment, you have nothing, the next, you have more than you can cope with.” ― Paulo CoelhoEleven Minutes

Positivity leads to more positivity.  It also leads to hope and inspiration and joy.  It’s an old saying, think positively, but it does work.  That’s why it’s an old saying and why it’s stuck around so long.  Looking to the bright side, the up side, looking with hope, lightens your soul, your mood, your day.  Thinking that all good things are possible, and the next thing that’s going to happen can be better than the last thing, lifts spirits and hearts.  Being positive, trying to keep it positive, holds us up, negativity drags us down.  It’s as simple as that.

“Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”

Knowing someone takes time, and effort.  It’s worth it, totally, for good or bad, and it never happens overnight.  Initially we put on faces for people, faces of the person we want them to know, the person we want them to believe we are, faces of the person we wish we were.  Those are good faces, but false ones.  To know someone we have to spend time.  We have to see each other with our faults on display, or mistakes out in the open.  We have to put in the time.  If we do, it can be a transcendent thing.  It can bring two souls close together.  To know and be known for who we are, there’s nothing more valuable.

“But luxury has never appealed to me, I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.” ― Daphne du Maurier
Alone time, enjoying your own company, isn’t loneliness.  Far from it.  Being able to spend time with yourself, and enjoy it, is vital to knowing yourself, your limits, your heart.  It’s in those times when we’re alone that we find out who we really are.  How do we spend our time, what do we think of, do we enjoy our own company.  Liking yourself is key.  Being able to be alone without much discomfort says you like spending time with you.  If you enjoy spending time with you, others will as well.  It’s as simple as that.
“To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do. ” ― Hermann Hesse

Patience is a virtue.  Yes, another Mom saying.  You get older, you realize those things your parents told you, those fundamental things, are true.  Patience with our family with our friends and with ourselves leads to less discord, a higher acceptance, better listening, deeper love.  We are not perfect, no one is.  People make mistakes, misspeak,  get into moods.  Life happens.  It’s sometimes messy and fast and crazy.  Patience helps us to slow all of it down, to take a breath, to get a moment to look more deeply into things.  Having it reminds us the little things don’t matter as much, patience helps us to narrow our focus to what does matter.  It’s the breath of life.

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ” 

― Maya Angelou

Music articulates life in a way nothing else can.  Emotion, feeling, grace, anger, desperation, agreement, honesty, truth, beauty, joy, hope, distress, and on and on and on.  Feelings too numerous to list.  There is music everywhere, a rhythm to the world, underneath the noise of everyday life.  There’s even music in that noise, if you quiet your heart enough to hear it.  We are a part of it, our souls singing their own songs.  Artists articulate it for us, but we have our own as well.  I can feel the essence of things in a beat or a phrase of music.  Our hearts beat, our heads sometimes pound, our feet tap to the sounds of windshield wipers.  Hearing that ever-present music connects us.  Music lets us know we aren’t alone.  It helps us to know we are connected to the whole of the world.

“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.” ― Audrey Hepburn

Soaking up moments, trying to absorb details as they happen, connects us with what’s happening now.  Not just seeing, but feeling what’s going on right where we are, deepens our connection to the moments we have, and helps us to have a greater experience.  Skimming over the details, failing to absorb what’s going on right where we are, lessens our connection, distances us from the moment.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” 
― Bruce Lee

simple life, living with less, craving less, adds so much richness to our lives.  Not being concerned with having stuff, things, collecting, lessens the burdens of life and frees us up to concentrate on the things that really matter… family, friends, being right where we are.  Things weigh us down, more than we think they do.  When we begin to let some of those things go, we feel lighter, unchained somehow.  It opens space in our lives.

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ― Virginia WoolfThe Waves

Coffee is essential to good living.  For me anyway.  I think everyone has that thing, small, but decadent.  Mine is coffee.  I look forward to it in the morning.  I’ve spent many an hour over a cup of coffee hashing out the ups and downs of life.  The smell of it brewing, the taste of a good cup.  Nectar of the gods for me.  We should all find simple pleasure is simple things.  One of those things for me is enjoying a great cup of coffee.

“It’s so large”
“It’s the world dear, did you think it’d be small?”

― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

We are small in a larger world.  It helps to remember this when our problems seem insurmountable, our sadness overwhelming.  Going out in nature, climbing up a hill and looking out over an endless vista, putting your feet in the sand and watching the crashing of wave after wave, gazing up to the clouds to see them moving.  These things remind us how small we are.  Even sitting in a traffic jam and noticing all the other people also sitting there, wondering where they’re going, what their day is like, where they all might be trying to get to.  We are so many times overburdened by our own thoughts, our own perspective, our own small lives.  The world is a vast place, enormous, and if we can keep some thought of that in mind, we can see how whatever is plaguing us at the moment is pliable, changeable, and in the grander scheme, small.

Words to Live By (Part 1)

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” 
― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan


I’m 50 now.  The big 5-0.  It doesn’t freak me out, worry me, or make me feel like I’m old and getting older (though I am).  It has however made me reflect a bit on the life I’ve lived.  There are things I thought were important when I was younger, when I was more self-conscious and filled with angst.  Very dramatic.  I wrote a lot then.  Prose, poetry (some OK, mostly not), letters I never sent, some I did.  Now, at 50, I’m much more certain of myself, much more comfortable in my skin, not as self-conscious.  I’ve grown.  Most of us do.

Through the course of this time I’ve spent reflecting lately I’ve made a mental list of the things I think are important in life.  Obviously the people in our lives are the most important, but this list of things/ideals are what I believe make a life more fulfilled, the things that can actually make a life extraordinary.  I strive to put them into practice every day.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.  But life is in the trying, and I try.

In honor of my turning the big 5-0 I’m going to throw the list out to the universe, as a gesture of good will and safe keeping.

I got a little carried away when I actually sat down to make the list (which is in no particular order by the way, just written as it came to me) so I’ve decided I will post it in parts.

Welcome to part 1….

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
― Mother Teresa

Compassion is paramount to living a fulling life, without it we are acting alone in the world, separate from our fellow humans.  We cannot pretend to know another persons story, or how they came to feel and think as they do, but we can honor them as human beings and wish the best for them.  We can be open to the fact that they have had different experiences than our own, not expecting them to then act and think as we do.  Compassion fills our hearts with love instead of animosity, it elevates us.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama

Kindness is the most important tenet, to me.  Above all things.  It’s so important to me that I have the above quote about kindness on every email I send out – you might have gotten one.  Kindness is always possible.  We have to be kind to others, and to ourselves.  I’ve learned a little kindness takes us everywhere we want to go.  It soothes souls, can make a persons day, and costs us nothing.  A smile, a kind word, a thank you, a simple acknowledgement of someone all work toward the common good, and good in ourselves.  It is beyond valuable, beyond priceless.  Kindness is key.

“Tears are words that need to be written.” ― Paulo Coelho

Sadness happens to everyone in life, let yourself be sad when you are, but don’t live there, wallowing in it.  It’s a tough balance, but necessary.  You honor the feelings by letting yourself feel them.  You don’t let it take control of your life by remembering that there is more to life than just the thing that’s created your feeling of sadness.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 
― Maya AngelouLetter to My Daughter

Inhabiting yourself – feel your body, know your mind, feel your presence.  Things will happen to us in life.  Things we cannot control.  Things terrible and strange and lovely and warm and awful and on and on.  We get through it.  We get through it best when we know ourselves, when we feel our own presence and our own power.  That knowing helps us to understand that life will happen, but we can bear it, we can step through it. We can move beyond whatever it is that’s happened and into something new, something that could be wonderful in its own way.

“Beauty doesn’t have to be about anything. What’s a vase about? What’s a sunset or a flower about? What, for that matter, is Mozart’s Twenty-third Piano Concerto about?” 
― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

Beauty is everywhere, if you look for it.  Noticing the wind moving the trees, the sun glinting through a fence, the way the dogs have that little walk they have, a phrase, a painting, a blade of grass, my honey breaking into song, in light and love and kindness.  Beauty is everywhere.  We choose to see it, or not.  Life is so much better if you look for it.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” 
― Herman Melville

Connectedness  Connection is everything.  We are not islands unto ourselves.  Our actions effect those around us, just as the actions of others affects us.  It’s so important to remember that our ideas and ideals are ours and to dwell in the knowledge that other people, other creatures, have their own ideas, wants, needs.  What we do, every day; the words we use when speaking to others, the actions we take in kindness, to our fellows and to our planet, all ripple out.  One kindness generates another, one word of anger generates more anger, one positive thought spills out to create more positivity in the world, a negative thought spreads negativity.  Everything we do has a consequence for others in small, and sometimes not so small, ways.  Everything is connected.

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.” 
― Raymond CarverWhere I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Anxiety.  I have it.  Everyone experiences it.  It’s not always rational, but it’s a natural part of living, of caring about people, caring about the world, caring about yourself.  There is no getting rid of it entirely.  The question is, does the anxiety control you, or do you remember to breathe, look it in the face, and try to keep stepping forward.  Sometimes I succeed in that.  Sometimes I don’t.  That’s OK too.  We can all wish for a little less anxiety in life, but we have to be careful the wishing doesn’t just lead to more anxiety.  Acceptance, stepping into and through it, instead of constantly denying and fighting against it, helps.  We have to remember to breathe.

“No one needed to say it, but the room overflowed with that sort of blessing. The combination of loss and abundance. The abundance that has no guilt. The loss that has no fix. The simple tiredness that is not weary. The hope not built on blindness.” 
― Aimee BenderWillful Creatures

Temperament and trying to keep oneself on an even keel is important.  The energy we give out to the world matters.  Not that we should live for others, we shouldn’t, but it’s important to be aware of our impact on others.  That we do have an impact.  It’s not easy when you’re in a bad mood, but it’s so important to try to be your better self, to try to remember not to inflict that mood on everyone around you.  Conversely it’s important to remember that if someone you meet in your day is in a bad space, they may have had a terrible day, or be battling demons you don’t know or understand.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 
― Frank HerbertDune

Fear, or the lack of it, is one of those constants in life.  We are afraid of what is happening, or what could happen, or what did happen.  Fear eats at us and taunts us and reminds us that we have a lot in life we don’t want to lose.  Fear is.  I love the line in the quote above about letting it pass through.  That rings true to me.  We have to face the things we’re afraid of, as best we can, and then let that fear pass through us.  We have to let ourselves look at what we fear, look it in the eye.  Only then do we begin to take the reins back from it.  We can never live entirely without fear.  We love, we dream, we hope, and so, we fear.  It is a part of living.  A part of caring.  But we can try to keep it from taking control of us, we can try to be its master, instead of letting it be the master of us.

“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 
― Louis C.K.

Empathy is central to living a full life.  Kindness, compassion, and love all come from a place of empathy.  We don’t have to know or have lived someone else’s circumstances to ache for them or to hope for them.  We tend to live in our own little worlds, sure of our ideas and opinions, secure in the thought that what we think, the way we think, is the right way.  Sometimes we even believe what we think is the only way.  We’re wrong.  We have no idea what another person’s experience is, where they came from, what they’ve seen, what they’ve lived through.  To have true empathy is to say that you might not understand someone, but you want to nourish their souls anyway.  It is to admit that you don’t know everything, and that you shouldn’t judge what you don’t understand.  To empathize is to step outside of your own set of rules and to say that you feel for another human, regardless of the presumptions you have about them.

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. ~ Peter Marshall

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

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Be The Love You Want to See in The World

1935760_142466440801_985538_nI’m in a good mood.  And maybe because I’m in a good mood I want everyone to be in a good mood.  Happy speaks to happy, that kind of thing.

I know, I know, there’s a lot of shit going on in the world.  Yes, I said shit, I’m allowed to cuss once in a while.  Sometimes no other word works.  Seriously though, I’m not blind to all the stuff that’s not working.  I know there are things that need fixing.


I think it’s easy to get caught up in what’s wrong.  It’s so easy in fact that we don’t see what’s going right.  What’s good.  The conflict and hate and the things we dislike seem to take our attention.  I’m not sure why that is.  We get critical of, and complain about a myriad of things – family members and politicians and news programs and celebrities and an endless litany of stuff.  The onslaught leaves us in a state of anxiety, anger, and helplessness.  Is there another way?

Sometimes, I think it’s just a matter of perspective.  Sometimes, all it takes is a moment, a little shift.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and open them again.  Look at the sky and the light and the faces of the people you love.  Put on a great album and hear the notes, the arrangement, the groove of the vocals.  Read a book and appreciate the beauty of the words.  Listen to the laughter of your children or grandchildren or your spouse.  Play with your pups or cats or rabbits or lizards and notice how much they love you.  Seek out positivity in your news, see what good is being done out in the world, there’s so much of it.  Notice kindnesses and smiles and the friendliness of your neighbors.  Watch sunsets and look with wonder at the amazing things we can build when we dream.  See the world with different eyes, a different heart, and it will be different.    It can be.  Even if we only manage to do it for a moment or a day.  String those moments to hours and those days to weeks. If we notice the kindnesses in the world, maybe we’ll act with more kindness.  Be the love you want to see in the world.

I’m in a good mood today and I want everyone to be in a good mood.