be here now…

It’s uniquely warm in northern Vermont today. In the predawn hour, I made coffee then sat out on my deck for a while listening to the honking of geese, early morning traffic sounds, and autumn leaves rustling. I felt a slight breeze on my face…so lovely.

All we have is here and now

The lyrics from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warner’s 1980s hit Up Where We Belong have been camping out in my psyche for the last few days. I thought I better explore them further…turns out they have a pretty good message.

Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

I know my thoughts of the past (or the stories I attach to them anyway) sometimes make me feel like a victim of sorts. And when I’m feeling anxious (fearful) about the future, those jangly thoughts will gleefully swoop in with a dizzying amount of bullshit that can affect every aspect of my life. Presence makes me calmer. That calm makes me a better human, partner, parent, and friend.

All I have is here and now...

Up Where We Belong is the theme song to the 1982 film, An Officer and A Gentleman. I just had to share a short memory with you. When I was in high school, my newly married sister and I took our grandmother to see the matinee after a day of shopping in Sioux Falls. I had never seen a movie with my grandmother before, let alone one with sex scenes…good grief. My grandmother covered her eyes with a sneaky, slightly open hand during those scenes hoping we wouldn’t notice. 😃 After the movie, we had to stop for gas on the way home. Laurie got out to pump, my grandmother was flabbergasted, she turned and said, “Your grandfather would be so disappointed if he saw that his granddaughter pumping her own gas.”. Cheers to those memories that make us giggle.

Now that I’m fifty-four and finally growing up, I’m trying to make a daily, or hell hourly grand bargain with myself of more presence. I’m discovering that staying in the moment gives me some emotional agility that helps me better handle whatever’s thrown my way…grandma was really onto something while we watched An Officer and A Gentleman. She was a very anxious woman, but in that moment she chose presence with her granddaughters and it was just wonderful.

My memories will forever come and go, shifting in both context and intensity as the years roll by. I don’t want to live in a constant state of regret, longing, or fear. I want to live in the fullness of the present. I know I will often fail and let my mind race. My grand bargain to myself is to keep trying to stay more in the moment.

Up Where We Belong

Joe CockerJennifer Warnes

Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow

Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

Time goes by
No time to cry
Life’s you and I
Alive today

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Jack Nitzsche / Buffy Saint-Marie / Will Jennings

metabolizing generational trauma…

“Once the seduction of taming and conquering never seen western lands took root, homesteading men must’ve been often blinded by their brave proclamation. The planning of their upcoming adventure, I suspect left little room for dissent of any kind. Homesteading wives just had to get on board, regardless of any fears or sorrow they felt about leaving everything familiar behind. They did what determined women have always done throughout history, they relied on their ability to make something out of nothing

It seems likely to me, the descendants of homesteaders just might hold some ancestral unsettling, some vague restlessness of that migratory gamble. I know I feel some ancient unsettling myself, and I always have.”

Excerpt from Personal Homesteading—a work in progress

Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands has confirmed many feelings I’ve had about generational trauma make sense to me. I’ve often wondered how my ancestor’s emotional landscapes have affected me. I don’t want to be at the mercy of emotions that were never mine in the first place—and now have lost any appropriate context. Sorry prairie ancestors, it’s time to cut you loose.

“trauma is also a wordless story our body tells itself about what is safe and what is a threat.”

―Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands

“All of this suggests that one of the best things each of us can do—not only for ourselves, but also for our children and grandchildren—is to metabolize our pain and heal our trauma. When we heal and make more room for growth in our nervous systems, we have a better chance of spreading our emotional health to our descendants, via healthy DNA expression. In contrast, when we don’t address our trauma, we may pass it on to future generations, along with some of our fear, constriction, and dirty pain.”

—Resmaa Menakem

We all possess some generational trauma to varying degrees. Right now our collective unhealed traumas could be part of what’s tearing families, communities, and our nation apart. I believe we can heal by learning ways to let trauma move through our bodies (metabolize it) and not keep us in a perpetually hypervigilant, anxious (fearful), and distrustful state of being. I’m an optimist AND a realist. I believe we can heal AND it’s gonna take a lot of heart, humility, and hard work.

how has COVID19 affected you?

I live in Vermont. We’ve been mostly compliant with what our leadership has recommended for our health. We’ve felt a strong sense of being in this very difficult and unusual time together.

NOTE: Vermont has a republican governor and I doubt Vermonters will shift course this November either. Governor Scott’s messaging about the pandemic has been consistent and based on science, not ideology.

Covid cases are surging all over the world. Our children and young adults are going to school online in front of computers all day long, every parent’s nightmare. We’ve lost 222,157 Americans as of this morning, COVID19 cases and hospitalization rates are rising in many states.

Unnecessarily millions of people are out of work, evicted or about to be evicted. Businesses have shuttered. Our first responders are exhausted, have held phones for families to say goodbye to loved ones and lost their lives too. Scientists are vilified. Family and friends are divided and fighting over a highly contagious virus that has affected everyone in the world in some way or another…and yet, even our health is highly political.

Why? What’s been gained? Lost?

This documentary is available for streaming—watch the short trailer here:

“Lies don’t end relationships the truth does.”
―Shannon L. Alder

I’m a bit shaky as I write this and I know it might upset many people. I’m posting the link to Totally Under Control because I think it’s the right thing to do right now. My own family hasn’t been immune to division & separation during this administration, and it’s all quite heartbreaking. This isn’t politics as usual. I hope we can at least agree on that.

Breathe. Be the bubble. Repeat.

anxiety is contagious just like COVID19…

The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. Source: CDC.gov

The principal mode by which people can be infected with ANXIETY (FEAR) is through repeated exposure to someone carrying ANXIOUS & UNSETTLED ENERGY.

anxiety:  apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill

anxiety (medical)an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

Source: Merriam Webster

I don’t want community spread of my free-floating (airborne) anxiety and I don’t want to pick up the anxiety of others either. Not infecting those I’m in contact with is my desired outcome.

When I feel that anxiousness rising, thinking about something calm helps me tremendously. Noticing takes a lot of deliberate & regular practice. I’m trying to be patient with myself while I’m in training.

Do you catch my drift?

As M.A.S.H.’s, Hawkeye famously replied in season 2 episode 15, “I played Left Drift in high school”.

Ah, I miss you Dad. 💜

When I manage to notice & slow down (breathe here) then my anxiety can be observed, treated, and antibodies are given a chance to grow into healthy protective cells.

Me

I’ve discovered a quick visual when I feel my discomfort rising—the bubble in a level…a vintage, weathered flea market level of course. If I’m able to level myself even a little bit, I can stop or at least slow the spread of my contagious anxiety.

Notice how this level is a bit higher on the right side? The table wasn’t even, I had to make a few quick adjustments to get the bubble centered…catch my drift?

I’m trying to be the bubble.

more garbage beauty…

Just because you’re trash doesn’t mean you can’t do great things.

—Oscar the Grouch

hazy shades of summer…

It’s only September 30th, and Summer 2020 already is a little hazy and dreamlike to me. The winter & late spring oddly seem like they were long ago. And people I saw last week, well, somehow it feels like I haven’t seen them for ages.

I’m not alone in feeling this way, am I?

Seasons change with their scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me

Hang onto your hopes my friend
That’s an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend
That you can build them again

—The Bangles, Hazy Shade of Winter Summer

Living on COVID time perhaps…

Livin’ on Tulsa COVID time
Livin’ on Tulsa COVID time
Well, you know I’ve been through it
When I set my watch back to it
Livin’ on Tulsa COVID time

—Don Williams/Tulsa Time

the beauty of garbage?

This summer I spent a lot of early mornings walking Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Mass picking up garbage. What started July 5th as a way to make the weekend better for everyone turned into something else.

Late in August, I wanted to sleep in, but I realized that I had really habituated or even ritualized my beach clean-up. I had become obsessive. I panicked that if I didn’t pick up garbage that day some kid could cut their foot and ruin their family’s much-needed vacation, or people would think Town Neck is a gross beach and not want to return.

My hypothetical thoughts raced. This wasn’t actually my job. I decided I had to take the day off, I was getting a little weird about it all.

Looking back at my summer now, I’m really proud of what I did. I felt purposeful in a time of American life that feels so surreal. I was thanked by many other sunrise beach walkers. I met some really interesting people. And as a photographer, the light was just so gorgeous every single day sun or fog or in-between. I found a lot of shovels and toys, but of course people are naturally leery about picking up things like that now.

These photos may make some people disappointed in humanity, but rest assured all of these items were picked up and saved from polluting the ocean during the next high tide. Now, on to the streets of Burlington, Vermont.

today’s first light…


“Listen to the wind blow, watch the sunrise.”
― Fleetwood Mac

fog, children’s literature & generosity on Town Neck…

In light of all of the health, social, fiscal, educational, environmental, and political upheaval there still is so much goodness in the world. As I write this post, my friend/next door is trying to fix my bike. Thank you Pete. I’m truly grateful.

Earlier this morning while walking Town Neck Beach I struck up a conversation with a fellow fog appreciator. We chatted and I learned that after years in the restaurant industry he wrote a children’s book titled, A New Day for Cray. He told me the basics of the story, it sounded full of heart, empathy, and healthy boundaries…so many things I appreciate.

We introduced ourselves, our Instagram handles anyway. Nice to meet you G Pa Rhymes (aka Gary Wakstein) children’s book author, poet, and beat make, on Instagram, I’m Dakota1966.

As we walked toward the parking lot to get away from nagging bugs, he read me a brief piece he wrote on November 10, 2016. I told him I would purchase a copy of the book for my great-nephew, Liam at Titcomb’s in East Sandwich.

He reached into his car and handed me a signed copy.

I walked home smiling, reading A New Day for Cray ready for breakfast/coffee, inspired by this story about friendship and adapting to inevitable changes that life deal every single one of us.

Nice to meet you, G Pa Rhymes. Keep up the good work, your next story sounds quite close to my heart too. The illustrative work of Erica Leigh so well personifies the characters, Cray has quite an evolution throughout the book, you can see it in his eyes. Check out social media links below.

G Pa Rhymes/Gary Wakstein

https://www.facebook.com/gparhymes/

https://www.instagram.com/gparhymes/?hl=en

Illustrator Erica Leigh

https://www.facebook.com/ericaleighart/?ref=py_c

Titcomb’s Book Store, East Sandwich, Mass

https://www.titcombsbookshop.com/

oh, what a complicated web we weave…

This morning a man in his 60s walked past me and I pointed the spiderwebs out to him. To me they would’ve been really hard to miss, and yet he hadn’t noticed. He was so struck by their beauty and quickly started taking pictures. He told me that he couldn’t wait to show the photos to his wife. He thanked me for pointing them out to him and walked over the boardwalk.

As I walked up the hill I passed another man, about the same age walking two little dogs. I said hello and mentioned that if he’s heading toward the boardwalk there are spiderwebs everywhere and they are so remarkable. He barely looked up and said one word to me, “disgusting”.

I thought about the stark differences of these two men. They were about the same age and visiting or living in the same area. I’m not going to make any assumptions here—not publicly anyway. However, if intellectual curiosity is a sign of open-mindedness, well…I know who I would prefer to hang out with if given the choice.

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
― E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web