When The View Gets Bad, Change The Channel You Are Watching

Joe taking a pause on Mt. Sherman
9 year old Joe takes in the beauty from Mt. Sherman

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”          ~George Washington Carver

Tonight we went to the movies because last night hubby finished reading The Hobbit to our boys. They could barely then wait another day to see the film, so off we went. Although I have never read The Hobbit (it is currently, however, loaded onto my Kindle for reading), I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Because I am somewhat like a squirrel on crack, I was surprised I enjoyed the film as much as I did. It’s hard to keep my interest for 2 hours and 39 minutes straight.

What struck me most about the movie was the incredible scenery. It got me to thinking about this planet we live on and how amazing it is. When something horrible happens in the world, like a deadly shooting rampage at a movie theater or an elementary school, for example, I am plagued with negative thoughts. The one thing that always makes me feel better in those situations is looking at photos of the breathtaking scenery on this rotating rock. Despite the fact that I will probably never travel to Patagonia or New Zealand, or any of the myriad other stunning locales on Earth, I take comfort in knowing these places exist. When I want to see them, I visit Trek Earth and their images bring me peace. Sometimes when things are bad I will go out for a quick walk on the open space behind our house and replace all the negativity with the beauty I see around me in the smallest things, a tortoise burrowing into a hole for winter, a coyote pouncing on a vole, a yucca plant in bloom.

Bad things happen all the time. Some seem too big to overcome. But, there is solace all around us if we look for it. For me, there is comfort in the knowledge that I am but a tiny part of this big, beautiful world. There was beauty here before I arrived and there will be beauty here after I leave. I can’t always escape the negative, but I can change the channel once in a while to remind myself that quiet, beauty, and wonder still exist. It may not cure the evils of the world, but it does make me look at them differently.

 

Birdsong

He doesn’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn’t go out.
He doesn’t know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.

When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
And earth’s aflood with morning light,
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to open up your heart
To beauty; go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if tears obscure your way
You’ll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.

Anonymous Child
Written in Terezin Concentration Camp

The Blogger’s Conundrum

Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to hang loose. Dinosaurs help.

One thing I struggle with constantly as a blogger is how to write things that are personally meaningful and heartfelt and yet innocuous. I often write about my family because my family is my job and my life. If I were a physician, I would write about medicine or if I were a priest I would write about faith. But, I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I write about what that is like for me. I try to be respectful. I try to choose my topics and words carefully. Sometimes, I still end up upsetting people. Sometimes, even things I feel I have written in a pointedly joking way come back to bite me because someone I know and love takes my words in a way I did not intend. It’s never easy when someone you care about lets you know your words offended, hurt, or annoyed them.

While writing about my personal life, I aspire to achieve a balance between humor and sensitivity, but sometimes I fail. And, when others fail to grasp my meaning in a written piece, I have substantively failed as a writer. I hate that. Before starting this blog, I debated about using a pseudonym. I weighed keeping my writing a secret and not publishing at all. Knowing that I write from my life experiences, I carefully considered what writing publicly would mean for my relationships. I very nearly decided not to attempt it at all. Then, one day, I resolved to be brave. I would take a risk. I would put myself out there wholly and completely, and that is what I attempted to do. Instead, though, I’ve censored myself repeatedly to ensure harmonious relationships. I feel I have barely even dipped my toe in the pool of self-disclosure. In this grand blogging experiment, what I’ve learned is that no matter how hard you try not to upset anyone, sometimes it just happens. I’ve also learned that you can’t predict what might bother someone, nor can you claim responsibility for their feelings. All you can do is write and hope for the best.

I’m down to the last 22 consecutive days left in this 366-day blogging adventure. I would walk away now (and, believe me, I’ve been toying with that idea for weeks), but I’m not a quitter. So, I’m staying until December 3rd as planned, at which time this blog will undergo some changes. I will likely reduce the amount of posts per week and I will also likely limit my subject matter. Both those things will cut down on the amount of times I’ll be able to annoy those near and dear to me.

I keep wondering how other writers balance this delicate situation. Is there a solution I’m missing? If I write honestly, am I doomed to a life of endangered relationships and lengthy personal explanations? Do I write what I want and ignore the fallout of others’ emotions? Writing is a gift to me only when I write without self-censure. I found a great quote tonight by famed poet Allen Ginsberg: “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” While that’s easier said than done with blogging, I suppose it is still possible. Maybe I just need to write what I need to say and then put on some noise-cancelling headphones and move forward and don’t look back?

Some Questions Cannot Be Answered

A horrible event gripped the Denver community over the past week. A ten year old girl went missing on her way to meet friends just a couple short blocks from her home on her way to school. As soon as it was determined that her whereabouts were unknown, an Amber Alert went out for her. Now, seven days later we know she is gone forever. The details of what happened in her last few hours here on earth are unknown, but the disturbing end she met is obvious. When the news broke that a body had been found (“not in tact” was the terminology the police used) less than ten miles from where police had found her abandoned backpack, I knew. I think we all did. The unspeakable would be spoken to her parents.

Before I became a mother, I thought these stories were sad and tragic. I could keep perspective about them, though, because I didn’t have parenting experience myself. Now that I have children of my own, though, children who are around the age of the young girl who senselessly murdered this week, the pain is visceral. My heart breaks for her parents who will undoubtedly go over and over in their heads what they, in retrospect, wish they would have done differently that day. They will ask themselves myriad unanswerable questions. Why hadn’t they walked with her to meet her friends? Why didn’t they realize sooner something was amiss? Why did it have to be her at all?

You’ve heard the expression “the truth shall set you free.” Well….the truth is that life is filled with mystery, uncertainty, chaos, tragedy, and barely imaginable acts of horror that can never be explained, much less understood. Yet, we continue to try to find meaning where there is none. There is no way to fix the loss these parents feel. There is no way to bring Jessica back. But, I find some comfort in my own life in accepting that some things in life are out of our control. I wish I could tell Jessica’s parents that they did nothing wrong. They were doing everything right, giving their daughter the freedom to grow and become independent, and the unbelievable happened because sometimes things happen despite our best intentions. Some questions in life cannot be answered. And, any question surrounding what happened to this sweet girl is among those questions. I hope her parents find some peace someday, the kind of peace that can only come when we accept that we are not in control on this big spinning ball. We’re just not. Control is an illusion and we need to let go of it.

A Small Tsunami Of Gratitude

(Author’s Note: I try to keep this a PG blog, but there is a link at the bottom of this page to some very happy, positive, enthusiastic profanity. I’m blaming it on Jason Mraz, but I’m encouraging it by sharing it here. Consider yourself warned.)

Rainy night with Jason Mraz at Red Rocks

Sometimes I find that things I’m not too sure about turn out to be the best gifts. I went with my friend, Shari, last night to see Jason Mraz perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I didn’t go because I’m a huge Jason Mraz fan. I went because I like Shari and because she asked and because I love concerts at Red Rocks. I saw my first show there in 1985 at the ripe old age of 17. (Oh…okay. Fine. If you must know, my first Red Rocks show was Howard Jones. It was the 80s. I was a teenager. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) Shari moved to Denver two summers ago but hadn’t yet seen a show at my favorite venue, so I was excited to accompany her even if I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the concert.

It was raining, so we geared up with waterproof jackets, umbrellas, and brown plastic lawn bags and braved the elements. We walked up the breath-taking ramp to the amphitheater, found our seats in Row 22, and settled in despite the steady rain. When the opening act had finished and Jason came on, it was still raining. Once we were three songs into the show I realized that the truly beautiful thing about Jason Mraz, whether or not you enjoy his music, is that he is a positive, happy soul and his attitude has the power to make things seem better. If you are a lyrics person, you will find his songs are filled with life-affirming joy and love. I stood in the 50-degree rain for four hours last night and never felt cold. That should say something about the sunshine this man is able to share.

Unless you’re a huge Jason Mraz fan, you may not have heard the song I am about to recommend. I hadn’t heard it until last night, but it was the highlight of my rainy evening. Jason explained that this song is about starting a tsunami of gratitude. I like the sound of that. The song made me smile. It reminded me how important it is to acknowledge the good in everyone you meet. So, I am paying it forward by sharing. Please know that I am truly grateful for your support. I’m 70 posts away from my goal of 366, a full year of daily blogs. I wouldn’t have kept up with it if it hadn’t been for your kindness in bothering to read what I have to say. Maybe you know someone who could use a pat on the back for something they’ve shared, created, begun, or accomplished? Share this song and start a small tsunami of gratitude of your own.

You Fckn Did It

Argh! This App Turned Me Into A Pirate

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So, I just spent an hour here in the Miami airport writing a blog entry in response to the vitriolic rhetoric on both sides of the CEO of Chick-Fil-A Dan Cathy’s remarks regarding marriage. I worked on it, labored over its message, and finally felt good about what I had to say when the app crashed without saving my work. So bummed. But it happens. As I’m getting ready to board our flight to Ecuador, I am going to assume that I was not meant to deliver that message today.

So instead I will leave you (and this country) with a couple quick thoughts. As we were flying over the Gulf of Mexico, I stared down into the sea. Perpetually a landlocked land lover, I am fascinated by the vast seas on this planet that I rarely see. The view from my airplane window of the gulf, the white sand beaches of Florida, and the clouds flashing lightning reminded me how small and insignificant I am. I think more people need to consider their transience and relative unimportance on this rotating rock. No person here is in exclusive possession of Divine Wisdom. We all struggle. We all love. We all want to be happy. We spend too much time absorbed with things that are not our problem and none of our business. Not one of us has the answer for another person. If we could just shut our mouths, open our minds, and accept that we don’t all the answers, we might be a lot better off.

Heading off now to grow my world view with my children. More from the Galapagos!