“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

From Other Wordly:

                   

One day a young Buddhist on his journey home, came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side.”.

“The stars are suspended on strings that are pulled up in the daytime and let down at night.” ~ Babylonian Mythology, 3000 B.C.

Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand

“the sound of wind
rustling bamboo leaves
near my window
short is my nap
and its dream” ~ Shikishi

I have been unable to post recently: Three nights of restless, intermittent sleep has taken its toll once again. I feel as if I were a method actor preparing for the role of a zombie, so much so that my eyes seem to have taken on that glassy sheen of the cinema un-dead. Absolutely delightful.

Last night/this morning was perhaps even worse than the night before. Usually I sleep in two-hour intervals; last night it was half hour intervals. I downed an Alka Seltzer a short bit ago and am now sipping on a cold Pepsi. No, I do not need the caffeine, but I do need the fizz. And then there are the migraines, the ones that come roaring in around 2 a.m. All in all, not the best few days.

The one good thing about getting out of bed so much is that one or more of the dogs gets up with me, and we stumble to the back door together. I stick my head outside as they are about their business. Last night was deliciously cool, and the air smelled like spring.

“Below the surface-stream, shallow and light,
Of what we say we feel—below the stream,
As light, of what we think we feel—there flows
With noiseless current strong, obscure and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.” ~ Matthew Arnold

In spite of my not posting for a few days, nothing much happened. I mean, I watched RHNY on Thursday night as Kelly had a meltdown of epic proportions, making repeated nonsensical declarations: “Satchels of gold.” “Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton.” “Feelings are so 1979.” “Bethenny has knives on her tongue . . . eee eee eee (stabbing motions). I know that it’s not nice to make fun of crazy people, so I’ll just say for the record, I told you she was crazy last year.

Since I could not focus enough to post yesterday or the day before, I spent an inordinate amount of time surfing aimlessly. In my searches, I came upon the perfect curling iron, decided to change my shampoo, and read some hype about something called a Far Infrared Dome, which is supposed to be based on Eastern concepts of acupuncture only with infrared heat. If I were going to believe the pitch, then this machine would cure all of my ails: chronic pain, back pain, muscle aches, poor circulation, gout, and a grumpy disposition (just threw in the gout to see if you were paying attention).

Essentially, the device is an open dome that the user places atop his/her body, and then infrared gamma rays from the planet Krypton zap away the pain, leaving a sense of relief and thirst (Users are cautioned to drink water before and after each treatment). Of course, just the increased intake of water could actually be the source of the curative effect.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

Apparently, these infrared domes do a good business in Canada, but I don’t know about elsewhere. Of course they are pricey, but if they actually worked, I could safe a ton on doctor’s visits and shots. I wonder if they are just woo or if there is actually some scientific basis for their claims. Anyone know?

Time out. Had to go lie down and actually fell asleep, real sleep, four hours. Bliss.

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

I had an interesting conversation with my ex on Friday regarding a letter that we received from TCC. Apparently, Eamonn is on academic probation. I’ll admit it: I immediately defaulted on this one and threw the ball into his court. That is a conversation that I could not possibly have without a lot of shouting ensuing (his first, then mine).  How does one get on academic probation at a community college taking four courses? Perhaps by not doing the work? Not going to class? I can only surmise here since I haven’t been firsthand this semester.

I freely admit that I expect a lot of those around me, always have, always will. I expect it because I have seen what each of them can do. Eamonn is a very intelligent person; he can be incredibly intuitive and perceptive. But he is also completely oblivious about the bigger picture—what life is about beyond the scope of his core group of friends, his girlfriend, his little community. Is this surprising? Not really. He’s a teenager who, for the most part, has had a pretty easy life. So on the one hand, I’m not too surprised when he acts as if the world begins and ends with him. That being said, I really thought that he would get it when he started college. You know? It, the big it, as in this is the beginning of my life . . . this is not high school any more . . . this means something.

Unfortunately, it does not appear to have hit home yet. Thus, I pass the buck on this one because I know myself too well, and I know my son. I just do not believe that it is possible to teach another person self-awareness, not matter how much love is behind the lesson. Self-awareness, self-discipline—these things must be learned individually, and almost always as a result of failure, loss, and pain. And the reality is that my instinct to nurture compels me to shield those I love from pain, which is not always a good thing.

“For it would seem—her case proved it—that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Writing this post has been like blood-letting: I began it early this morning when I could not sleep. I came back to it after an intermittent sleep. I became distracted while writing it in searching for the theme of my quotes. I took a turn at Japanese Tanka poetry. And of the five quotes that I had originally selected, only the title and the Matthew Arnold quote remain.

Sometimes it comes so easily—my fingers move across the keys, creating words and sentences as if of their own volition. Other times, I regroup, move things around until I am satisfied. But on rare occasions, the writing is as it has been today: filled with pauses, backtracks, and uncertainty. When this happens, I must quell a deep desire to simply take the whole thing and move it to the trash heap of computing, that never-never land where words go to die. Perhaps twice I have given over to this desire and just said to hell with it and stopped, but when I do that, I feel even worse than I did while I was writing, as if I abandoned my very thoughts, negated them, made them inconsequential.

But I do not know which is worse: to suffer through until an end appears so that I can stop, to continue to write until things begin to take shape more clearly, or simply to close up shop, hang a sign saying “Back Soon,” and surrender to the miasma of words on the page that have refused to go where I willed them. But for today, I will compromise, having reached an ending, I will stop, post, and hope for a better day tomorrow.

More later. Peace.

Music by Iron & Wine, “Passing Afternoon”

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

 The journey is more important than the inn

Photograph by L. Liwag

“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~ Unknown English Professor, Ohio University

Well, eldest son did it. He walked up there and took his diploma, and the school Superintendent pronounced them graduates. The ceremony was a fast-paced deal that lasted only an hour and a half, as compared to my daughter’s graduation which seemed to go on and on and on. The venue was good too, open, roomy, not squooshed up against the person you are sitting against, so I had no claustrophobia problems.

Aside from immediate family, his cousin who is graduating tomorrow came, as did his friends since childhood, Gordon and Tailor. I made Eamonn stand for pictures with everyone, and he was actually pretty gracious about it.

The only downside was when I was trying to move up a row (because of course every seat in the row that I selected was being saved), and I scraped my thigh on the arm of the end seat. I have a nice, big black and blue spot on my leg, but I don’t plan to enter any hot legs contests anytime soon.

As far as people being overly rowdy and loud, it wasn’t too bad. The school’s principal had already made a few announcements prior to the start of the ceremony in which she said that if the noise became too loud, she would step back and stop handing out diplomas, and she kept her word. Twice she stopped the procession until the crowd calmed down.

It’s such a shame that she had to make the announcement in the first place, and that she had to follow through with it, in the second place.

“What is the most important thing one learns in school? Self-esteem, support, and friendship.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

The Road Less TraveledI always like to choose a fitting quote to go into almost every card that I give, and I found a really good one on Goodreads. The quote is by writer Neil Gaiman:

“I’ve been making a list of all of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who is dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

The reason that I like this quote so much is because it is essentially true. What do we take away from high school? How to conjugate a verb in French? How to find the square root of an isosceles triangle? What the Monroe Doctrine was?

If you remember this kind of information, you probably do really well at Trivial Pursuit and/or you have gone on to become a teacher. But what is my son taking away from high school?

A group of friends who have stood by him during the worst times of his life (so far) and the best times of his life (again, so far). Memories of some really great times that he would prefer his mother never finds out about, and more than a few regrets that he didn’t follow through on a few things (track, football).

He is also taking with him the following lessons:

  • Mom knows if you are lying if you giggle too much
  • It’s hard to explain why you were absent from a particular class if your mom dropped you off at school that morning.
  • The school is serious when they say they will confiscate cell phones
  • You cannot make the team if you never go to practice
  • Yes, you have a deceptively charming smile, but that smile only works with some teachers, probably females
  • Mom was right when she told you that you really would survive the second breakup with your first serious love
  • Girls do talk to each other, so it’s probably not a good idea to date friends no matter how hot they are
  • Asking your mom to type your paper that is due the next day at 9 the evening before does not put her in a good mood
  • It takes money to put gas in the Trooper, and it’s probably a good idea to check the oil sometimes
  • Your mother knows when you have been smoking in her car, even if you leave the windows down all night

“High school: Oh man. This is where boys and girls go from tweens to teens and become complicated and cruel. Girls play sick mind games; boys try to pull each other’s penises off and throw them in the bushes.” ~ Eugene Mirman

Zen leapOkay, those are the fluffy lessons, so to speak. But he also learned some really hard lessons, like how much it hurts when your first love breaks your heart. And how hard it is to keep your word if you never meant it in the first place. Or how someone who claims to be a friend can stab you in the back without breaking a sweat. And how your parents can become real hardasses over things like curfews, and grades, and conduct notices, even though you don’t really understand what the big deal is.

I think that it is profoundly unfair that you first discover love at a time when you least know yourself in life. How is a teenager supposed to cope with all of the drama and accusations and breaking up one day only to make up the next day? How are they supposed to handle all of this angst and study for calculus too?

Frankly, when I put things in perspective, it’s no wonder that 11th grade becomes the make or break year for so many people. The pressure from their teachers is incredible because they are pushing students to think about college, and they are trying to cram as much information as possible into a brain that is essentially a sponge: and while a sponge can absorb a great deal, it also lets a whole lot seep out.

The pressure from worried parents intensifies in their junior year because there is college to think about, and if not that, then how have they prepared for a trade? And aren’t they spending too much time on the phone, and shouldn’t there be limits on the computer?

And the poor teenager is thinking “God, I wish that I could talk on the phone in peace, and I really don’t think that chemistry is going to make or break my career, and I’m responsible enough to stay out until midnight on a school night.”

And then comes the summer before senior year, and everything changes. By October, your senior is already thinking about graduation and getting an apartment, and you are wondering where all of the years went and praying that nothing goes horribly wrong in the next seven months.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Eamonn made us tremendously proud today, but I have to admit that there were times when I wasn’t sure that he would make it. There were moments when it seemed that there was nothing more than Pooh fluff in his brain, and there were many nights when I would get anxious about his state of mind and just how much he was in control of himself when he wasn’t under guard at home.

But I really believe that the senior year is more for parents than it is for their teenagers. It’s nine months in which you can begin to accept the fact that you son or daughter isn’t 7 any more, that you are not the most important part of their world, and that they are thinking about life without you.

Starry skiesIt’s a hard reality to face, and if you are anything like me, you don’t accept it gracefully. Even as your man-child or woman-child is thinking of new paths of discovery and a brand new chapter in life, you are reconciling yourself to fate and the need to close a chapter that has ended much too soon.

I hope that Eamonn figures out what his great adventure is going to be. I hope that he never stops dreaming, and trying, and loving, and living. I wish him star-filled skies at night, and red-orange sunrises that will take his breath away. I want for him all of those things that are possible, and even some that may not seem possible. I wish him joy, and I wish him love, but most of all, I wish him a life that is filled with hope.

Hope for better tomorrows, a world more at peace, people who are more in tune with their environment, friends who will be there at 3 o’clock in the morning if he needs them, and the immutable knowledge that home is always waiting.

And in the words of the incomparable Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”

More later. Peace be with you and yours.

“And they were canopied by the blue sky, So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful . . .” ~ Lord Byron

yellow-lab-goes-sailing

Blue Skies and Smooth Sailing

“Green calm below, blue quietness above.” ~ John Greenleaf Whittier

sunny-day

Today was a good day. Nothing at all special happened, which is part of what made it a good day. The sky was an amazing, cloudless blue, not hidden by any haze. Temperatures were in the mid 70’s, and a light breeze was blowing.

These are the kinds of spring days that we have too seldom in this area as early spring tends to jump straight into summer, with hot, humid days and hazy sunshine. So on a day like today, I took advantage of the gift nature had presented me, and I sat out in the back yard in the warm spring sun. I took a book, but will admit that I didn’t read many pages.

Brett, too, joined me outside, as did the dogs. Corey seemed more relaxed as he sat in a chair outside talking to his mother, something that always seems to calm him. I took the portable CD player outside and put on some tunes, making for an altogether laid-back afternoon.

I will admit that I spent much more time gazing upwards and daydreaming than I did concentrating on my book. If I had to tell someone exactly where my thoughts wandered, I would be hard-pressed. It was the kind of day-dreaming that has no rhyme or reason to it. I just let my thoughts float on the breeze and go where they wanted.

“I never get tired of the blue sky.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

Granted, the morning did not begin quite so peacefully as today was opening day at the park that lies directly behind our house. I was awakened at 8 a.m. to sounds of horns as people vied for parking spaces. Then the PA system came on, and the realization of what day it was hit me right behind the eyes.

I know. If any of my children were playing in the league, I would be full of excitement at the prospect of opening day. However, since we have lived here, opening day has become something to dread: cars parked haphazardly in the park’s lot and up and down the streets, litter in the front yard from people who have no consideration for other’s property, and lots and lots of yelling of  “go, go, go, go.”

You might think that after all of this time I would be used to the clamor, but somehow opening day always seems to impinge upon my reality in the most unpleasant way. Today it was blaring horns early in the morning.

Eventually, the police will come by to ticket the people who seem oblivious to the fire hydrant in the corner of our front yard and the no parking signs on our side of the street. When I try to warn people, they think that I am just being nosy and ignore me, so you’ll have to forgive me if I take some small amount of pleasure when they finally get their tickets.

” . . .the blue sky, it seems so deep, so peaceful, so full of a mysterious tenderness . . .” ~ George MacDonald 

But back to my day: mysterious tenderness . . .

FSE009

We sat there in companionable silence, all of us, lost in our own thoughts. I looked around the yard and realized that the gardenia bush would be in bloom soon, and thought about the lantana that needs pruning in the front of the house.

The Jack Russells spent a lot of time with their noses turned toward the heavens, their eyes closed. I remember when we first got them, as small puppies they would sit in the backyard with their snouts turned upwards and move their heads back and forth slowly, almost synchronized. Their noses would twitch as they caught different scents on the wind.

In our house, we call that action being “sun puppies.” Tillie, however, has not quite mastered the Zen of being a sun puppy. She can remain still for a minute, maybe two, before she is off, ferretting out a ball for someone to throw. From experience I know that few Labradors tap into their inner Zen until they reach about three years old.

My old lab Mokie used to love to sun herself, and in the winter, she would take naps against the sliding door whenever the sun was at its brightest on the rear of the house. Once or twice I have found Tillie by the glass door, and it is a sweet reminiscence.

“Darkly, deeply, beautifully blue” ~ Lord Byron, Don Juan

Later, after everyone had come inside, Corey and I were talking, and our conversation drifted to the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Even though he spends his professional life on the water, and he loves to landscape and garden, I told Corey that I thought that he was more of a fire element, not just because he has a fascination with fire, but because of the qualities of fire: it warms; it is unpredictable and passionate; it can mean death, but at the same time, it can bring forth new life, renewal by cleansing an area for new growth. Fire is an element for those who constantly seek change.

earth-air-fire-and-water

Although my star sign is Aquarius, and I love the sound of water, I think that I am more closely allied with air. Everything about the sky amazes me: the creatures that soar and move through the air, the clouds that can occlude or refract, the night sky with all of its stars. I have even put glowing stars on the ceiling of my bedroom so that on the darkest of nights, I still have the heavens above me.

I find tremendous peace in all of those things, but the one thing that I love to behold in the sky is the mixing of my elements: a thunderstorm in which the rain pours down, the sky is back lit by shooting spears of light, and the air moves through everything, causing the trees to sway, the leaves to turn inward, and the earth itself to run in rivulets.

“I believe that if one always looked at the skies, one would end up with wings.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

wings-in-flightAnd now that evening is here, I find that I still have a smile on my face, something that has seemed to elude me for forever, it seems.

The only thing that is missing now is the sound of the water gently flowing from the pond, but if I am patient enough, that too will happen. Today is the kind of day that so many people take for granted, but I am learning to appreciate better as a result of the greyer days of the past. Tonight I am will lay my head on the pillow and give up my destiny to the fates.

I can feel my steady heartbeat in my chest. I can content myself with the steadfast love of the man beside me, the family around me, and the friends who keep me close in their hearts.

Perhaps tomorrow my worries will return with the force of a tree bending under the weight of winter ice, but that is tomorrow, and I am not going to spoil this day with troubles that I cannot change in the space of one day, one week, or possibly, one month.

I will leave you with the words of the amazing Carl Sagan. There will be more later. Peace.

At a few hundred kilometers altitude, the Earth fills half your sky, and the band of blue that stretches from Mindanao to Bombay, which your eye encompasses in a single glance, can break your heart with its beauty. Home you think. Home. This is my world. This is where I come from. Everyone I know, everyone I ever heard of, grew up down there, under that relentless and exquisite blue.

~ Carl Sagan

Grace in Small Things #31

bumper-stickers-mania

Bumper Sticker Mania Reflections of a Person’s Soul

Dazed and Confused

Somehow I ended up with #31 on February 1st so I can either go back and renumber all of them, or I can do two today, or I can just keep going from here because I think I’ve already begun to confuse myself. I think that I’ll just stay with what I have and remain confused for the rest of the year, knowing that I started 23 short, if that makes any sense, and maybe at the end of the year, I’ll do a post that has 115 items in it . . . thoroughly confused? No more so than I.

1. Calendars. I love calendars, and not just the beautiful ones that you put on your wall. I also love pocket calendars and desk calendars. At the moment, I am at an all-time low, having only three: one wall calendar next to the computer, a lovely black and white Zen calendar; a beautiful orchid calendar in the kitchen (I wonder what made me think of orchids, Maureen), and a weekly pocket calendar in my purse. I really feel that I should have at least one more large planner, even though I have nothing to plan. It would just make me feel better. Can’t be too careful, especially when you can’t remember what day it is.

2. Reading other people’s bumper stickers. I’m not crazy about putting them on my own car, but I love to get behind people who go crazy with stickers on their cars. I view it as a window into a person’s personality—the bumper stickers they choose. You can tell a person’s political affiliation, what their hobbies are, which bands they like, whether or not they have good interpersonal relationships, and if they are cowboys, rednecks, or goths. Sometimes, you can even tell how many people they have in their family; you know, when they have those stickers that  imitate a mom, dad, kids, dog, cat, etc. These are usually found on minivans. I would buy them if they had alternate images, like a warrior, a rock n’ roller, a skateboarder, a gamer, and then maybe a three-headed dog, but even that is too tame.

3. Post-it notes. Couldn’t live without these wonderful things. I have them in bright colors. Least favorite color is the plain yellow. I love the bright turquoise. I have one of those nifty pop up dispensers, and I have post-its all around my big screen—songs I want to download, books I want to buy, people I need to call. See, I would never be able to do that without post-it notes.

4. Picture frames. I buy frames even when I don’t have a particular picture to put in it if I happen to like the frame. I know that the perfect picture will come, and I will already have the frame. I keep the frames in a box under my bed. Although, I haven’t checked lately. Tillie may have eaten the picture frames I have been saving. I never know what she’ll discover as her next favorite food.

5. Waking up without a headache. Sounds like such a simple thing, really. But the reality is something for which I am truly grateful when it happens.

That’s today’s list. More later. Peace.

My Calendar Fetish

2009-calendars

Isn’t Daniel Craig dreamy? There were no calendars like that available, and besides, I don’t buy man candy calendars. That would be sexist . . .

Just Like Books, You Can Never Have Too Many Calendars

So today, we did one of my favorite after-Christmas things: We went to Barnes & Noble to scope out the 50 percent off calendars. Now some years, I buy calendars for everyone before Christmas and wrap them as presents, but lately, I’ve found that buying them after Christmas is not only more cost effective, but it also allows the kids to pick out the calendars that they want as opposed to my buying what I think they might want—big difference.

I mean, when they were smaller, it was pretty easy: Thomas the Tank Engine, or then later, Sponge Bob, or something like that. But now, they have branched out. This year, Brett picked out a calendar with black and white pictures of trees. This after first picking up a star chart, then a night sky calendar.

Eamonn shopped by phone. His first choice was a Red Sox calendar, but sports calendars sell fast; then he wanted a Venice calendar (?), no Venice, but could I interest you in a landscapes of Italy? No. Then I remembered that he liked motivational quotes. I mentioned that. He wanted to know if it was too girlie, so I had to describe the pictures. That one seemed to meet his approval.

Moving on to Alexis. She has pretty eclectic tastes. One year it was Jimmy Hendrix, the next Bob Marley. Far Side always works. This year, I knew that I could win with a Family Guy, so I grabbed what appeared to be the only one in the store. I could not find, however, a daily planner, lots and lots of weekly ones, but no daily ones. That search was quickly sapping the little energy I had left (we had made two stops before Barnes & Noble). Not to mention, my daughter is very persnickety about her planners; i.e., they must be a certain size with the pages laid out in a certain way. No way I was going to chance that one.

Then it was my turn. I used to buy four calendars: one for work, one for the kitchen, one for the bedroom, and one for my purse. Now I don’t have to buy one for work, even though I dreamed this morning that I had to go back to work on Monday for a former female boss whom I absolutely loathed, and I hadn’t done any of the projects that I was supposed to do while I was out of work. Don’t you hate those kinds of dreams?

We won’t discuss the number of calendars that I actually ordered at work or you might think that my OCD was/is truly out of control. And it was three, by the way, not counting the one that I brought from home, or the one that I had in my purse. And yes, I used all of them . . . moving right along . . .

So I found my first calendar right away, the kitchen calendar: it was an orchid calendar, beautiful miniature orchids in very simple vases with lots of open light. The bedroom calendar was giving me fits. That’s the one that I write all of my doctor’s appointments on and keep on the wall next to the computer, so it needs to have fairly big boxes, and be of good quality paper. I also need to like it a lot. I looked at the motivational one that I had picked out for Eamonn, which is why I knew about it in the first place.

I looked at other flower calendars, a Celtic calendar, a wildlife calendar, a fairy calendar (I like fairies if they don’t look too overdone), and a Dalai Lama calendar. I knew that I wasn’t in the mood for a country (as in Italy or France or whatever, which I’ve had before) or an animal (which I’ve also done before). What I really wanted was black and white, and the only one that I had seen was the tree one that Brett grabbed. And then there it was, on the bottom shelf of course where it is hard for me to bend down to see, a black and white Zen calendar. I grabbed it and put it in the basket.

Then I picked up a small weekly planner for my purse to duplicate all of the doctor’s appointments, etc. But I still manage to confuse times and days somehow, even though I check the calendar on the wall and the calendar in my purse. Don’t ask me how I do that because I’m still trying to figure it out. And don’t suggest that I use the calendar on the computer, because I’ve done that, too, with the reminder system and everything. I still show up at the doctor’s office on the wrong day or at the wrong time because I really don’t remember what day it is.

I didn’t have this problem so much when I worked because my body clock was set the same as normal people’s, but when you find yourself finally closing your eyes at 5:35 in the morning, it’s hard to be in sync with the rest of the world, and unlike one of my regular correspondents who can get by on four (4!) hours of sleep a night, I now need at least 9.

What’s really hard to believe is that I used to get by on five hours of sleep without any problem, and I would wake up early on purpose to get in at least 30 minutes of work out time, including 150 crunches every week day morning. This was when I was a single mom and had to fit in the work of two parents into one parent’s body.

You adapt. Then, I was buff and strong. Now, I’m a slug.

So back to Barnes & Noble . . . Brett and Corey are off looking for reading material because Brett has decided to try to spend less time playing video games and more time reading, and I am trying to find just one book (which is very restrained of me): the sequel of Into the Woods by Tana French. I don’t know the name of the sequel, but I know that it is out because of  Publisher’s Weekly, a really wonderful online publication that I receive that keeps me up-to-date on new releases and things that are happening in the publishing world.

So Corey finds out from the help desk that the sequel is indeed out, that there is supposed to be one in the store, and an associate walks him over to where the book is supposed to be located, but of course, it is not there. Of course it isn’t because I could spend all day in bed tomorrow reading it. It would be wonderful. I can just imagine it. Ah me. Reading nirvana.

By the way, if you like mysteries, read Into the Woods. It’s a first novel by French, and it is masterfully written. I finished it, and I started having a tantrum to which Corey asked, “What’s wrong now?”

“It’s just not fair,” I whined in my most petulant only child voice. “This is her first book, and it’s wonderful. And, it’s a cliffhanger. I hate her and I want to be her.” Yes, Lola logic at work once again.

So we left the store with just one little problem: I set off the security alarm, which I had done when I walked in. I had asked the people at the checkout to scan my purse and explained to them that I had set off the alarm when I came in, and when I entered and left Kohl’s and had no idea why. They obligingly scanned my purse, said there was nothing there, asked if my coat was new, to which I replied, “nope.” We walked out the door perplexed until I realized that I was wearing new jeans that Corey had bought me for Christmas from Old Navy. Maybe there was a magnetic strip somewhere inside one of the seams?

Why me? When I get home, I take off the jeans, and lo and behold, there is one of those bulky tags that says, “remove before washing.” It’s one of the new security tags. No wonder I’m setting off alarms. I’m just glad that I look too much like a goofball to be thrown to the ground and manhandled by some security guard because my back couldn’t take it.

Speaking of Kohl’s, Brett’s jeans were exchanged, and so ends the great Levi’s 569 saga of 2008. Let peace reign again. I left a message on his father’s voice mail and told him that we were near a Kohl’s (true) and that we exchanged the jeans without any problems (also true), so everything was taken care of (also true). Now if he can accept that, everything can be fine. (We’ll see).

Also ends the great calendar quest as well as the jeans saga of 2008 as we approach the end of the year, and I have to say that I am awaiting 2009 fervently hoping that I can find a curse breaker to end this long-running streak of bad juju that has befallen our family. If you know of any good curse breakers who aren’t complete frauds and charlatans, ask them to send some good juju my way.

More later. Peace and goodwill to you all.

I Vant To Be Alone . . .

Hermits, Eremites, Anchorites, or Just Plain Recluses?

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Aran Islands Hermit's Cave, Ireland

I’ve been contemplating hermits. You know, those people, usually men, sometimes women, who go off and live by themselves. (The word hermit comes from the Greek word erēmos, which means desert or uninhabited; hence “desert-dweller”; adjective: “eremitic”; (Wikipedia)).  Hermits have been around since the 3rd century AD, and their associations have traditionally been religious. Originally, Christian hermits would live in huts or caves, called hermitages, in the desert or forest, and they were sought for spiritual advice, which kind of negated the whole solitude concept. (Here in Norfolk, we have a museum called The Hermitage, which has nothing to do with hermits, and that’s always kind of bothered me, but I digress.)

By the Middle Ages, the hermit’s life had changed in that it had become more anchored to the Christian church, thus the term anchorite. Instead of living in forests or deserts, many anchorites were actually walled into mud or brick attachments on the sides of the churches with a window opening into the church so that the anchorite could receive holy communion and another window open to the street to receive donations of food. I suppose that this allowed for more of the life sought by the Christian eremite, which was to be in total praise and devotion to his god.

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Tiger's Den Buddhist Monastery in the Himalayas

Of course, there were and are many kinds of hermits, not just the Christian ascetics. For example, Buddhist monks and nuns seek solitude for meditation, contemplation, and prayer. They prefer to life without the distractions of modern society or sex, and their lives follow a regimen of a simplified diet without meat, drugs, or alcohol. Buddhist monasteries and temples can be found all over the world, with an expected preponderance in China, but also from every place from Queensland, Australia, to Slovenia, to Oregon, to Chile and Bali.

Then there are the hermits who have no religious affiliations, the ones who are hermits simply because they choose to live a reclusive life apart from the rest of society.

When I was about 17, I contemplated becoming a nun. Now, given that I’m not Catholic and was not raised Catholic, you might find this a somewhat interesting declaration. I had a very good male friend in my teens who I may have mentioned before, and he was pretty much my sounding board throughout my teens and college years. We have known each other since the fourth grade, so I trust his judgment, even though he was a Republican for almost forever. So when I made the statement that I thought that I might like to become a nun, his response was to raise an eyebrow and wait.

These were my reasons: Let me preface this by saying that I find the Catholic religion particularly sexist, so I really have a hard time with that part of it, which I know pretty much disqualifies me from the start, but I love the rituals of it: the incense, the candles, the kneeling, the holy water. I wish that they still said the mass in Latin, not that I understand Latin, mind you. I loved the idea of being a nun and not having to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I mean, bingo, you’re married to god, you have a vocation, your wardrobe is chosen for you, you never have a bad hair day.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to be flippant. These really were my reasons. I was 17, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. It had nothing to do with religion. I loved the idea of being cloistered. I had not idea that I might have to teach school children or anything like that. I just wanted to be away from the rest of the world, and I didn’t know how to go about being a hermit, and I wasn’t sure if you could still actually do that, at least not in America. I knew that they still had hermits in England, or at least, I thought that they did.

My friend listened to my reasons, and then very calmly pointed out two main flaws in my plan: First, I wasn’t Catholic. And second, I wasn’t particularly religious or even spiritual at that point in my life. As he said, he thought that I needed to be at least one of those or to at least have some kind of “calling,” as he put it.

I cannot say that I was surprised. Disappointed yes, but surprised, no. It has seemed like a good idea at the time, and one that I revisited from time to time, especially when I was feeling as if I did not want to be of this world, if that makes any sense.

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of finding a monastery to go to for an extended retreat. I have heard of one that is in the foothills of Virginia somewhere, but I have never actively looked for it. I suppose that I have never given up on the idea of the monastic retreat even if I cannot live the lifestyle full time, which, in reality, I know that I cannot. I mean, I am already pretty much of a hermit already. Since going on disability, I have retreated from the trappings of life by choice, and I cannot say that I miss it all that much.

I miss going to school and learning new concepts and new information on an ongoing basis, but my computer is my lifeline to information, and I am tapped in 24/7. When I cannot sleep, I surf. I watch MSNBC for new political information, and I watch Law & Order, Without a Trace, and CSI for my doses of crime drama. That much hasn’t changed. I still like to eat out once in a while, and I would love an occasional night out for karaoke, but other than that, the world outside my bedroom doesn’t beckon to me in the way that it used to.

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Hermit's Cave Quarry Bank Garden

If we had the money, I would still like to take a trip once a year to a new country just for the experience, but a trip to a mall? Not so much. The movies? I really resent paying $30 for tickets and drinks and popcorn when I can pay $4 on cable in a month. Now a museum? In a heartbeat, but I would need to be in a new city for that. The symphony? I would probably get out of my pajamas for that. But just going out to go out? My hermit tendencies kick in, as do my curmudgeonly feelings about people in crowded stores like Wal Mart and the like.

If I had been around in the Middle Ages, and I believe that I probably was, I think that I would have liked to have been a hermit, probably one who lived in a stick hut in the forest. That sounds about right. And my name would have been something like Leonid of Aghast and I definitely would have been a misanthrope.

I’ll get into the whole idea of reincarnation and my thoughts about past lives and Zen and Karma and getting it right in another posting. But just one parting thought on that one. Why does everyone who believes in reincarnation believe that they were someone great like Napoleon or Marie Antoinette? I mean, why isn’t anyone ever a chambermaid or a stable boy or something like that? Just a thought.

As always, there will be more later. Peace.