Colder temps are arriving tonight, so when I woke up I thought I better take off on one of my predawn rambles. I stepped out into the cold, my only agenda to get some exercise and enjoy the quiet before the relative hustle of COVID life in Burlington, Vermont begins.
I got much so more…
I started thinking about how many people in the world are facing some of the same challenges as me right now. I felt an instant expansive kinship with them all. I imagined a middle-aged mom in Tibet taking a walk, coming in from the cold, making a cup of tea, and wondering what her next chapter will bring.
Perhaps she too is struggling to find some grace and acceptance in that endlessly tricky space betwixt & between her intentions, words, & actions.
Next, I thought about my sister-in-law and all of the school administrators/teachers struggling to keep the world’s children engaged and healthy. Then I imagined our planet’s exhausted nurses and doctors working to heal the sick, and be present with folks in their last moments when visitors are no longer allowed. I went down the line thinking about the professions and circumstances of all of the people I know and their cohorts around the world.
As I walked back home thinking about the web of our shared humanity—I felt lighter, less burdened, and more a part of a team.
Funny, just last night my husband said, “You really like being part of a team, don’t you?”.
created nor destroyed…the total amount of mass and energy in the universe is constant. —Law of Conservation of Mass, discovered by Antoine Lavoisier in 1785
matter: the formless substratum of all things which exists only potentially and upon which form acts to produce realities —Merriam Webster
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of matter and how I spend my time, resources, and energy. I’m not a first responder, teacher, food producer, or any of the many admirable front line workers that kept us going during this remarkably challenging COVID19 year.
I’m an artist and making things and thinking about making things takes up a lot of my time…most actually. I think in potential constantly to produce other realities.
So, does making art in my basement studio matter in any way right now?
I just don’t know.
Here’s what I do know. I was unsettled the other day. I cleaned my studio. There was a lot of cardboard. I rescued it from the recycling. I created the work below. I felt much more settled.
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
This morning my coffee-fueled internet meanderings landed me a famous mugshots site. They’re quite remarkable, raw, and they all seem to just dare you to learn more about the arrests. I’m a true crime junkie.
David Bowie was arrested in Rochester, NY for marijuana possession on March 21st, 1976. He was held for three hours and released on bail. He pleaded guilty and the grand jury later decided to pass on his case. Even his mugshot is classy, of course.
With some regret, I’ve never been arrested. So, with the help of my daughter, Willa Govoni’s photography and highly intuitive stylist skills I now have my very own menopausal mugshots. Perhaps a protest arrest is in my future? #2021goals #resist #goodtrouble
I thought about my characteristics that feel like crimes sometimes. They came to mind quite quickly…judgment, regret, and procrastination.
Willa, you’ve got a good eye kid. Let’s do lunch and discuss more projects.
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.
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 Crayready 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.
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
A few Saturday mornings ago while walking down the hill to the Cape Cod Bay, my daughter, Willa told me that she had never seen a coyote. She’s traveled to South Dakota at least once a year her whole life to visit my family and I was surprised. We stepped on the beach before sunrise and the very first thing I noticed was a coyote in the shadows walking the shoreline. The shape was haunting, and instantly familiar.
“In Plains Indian stories, Coyote nearly always takes the shape of a man. He is clever but reckless and is constantly getting himself and the people around him into trouble with his socially inappropriate behavior like greed, boastfulness, lying, and chasing women…
Growing up in South Dakota I frequently heard coyotes howling outside my bedroom’s eastern-facing window that overlooked acres of the uninterrupted prairie where my horse, Honey Bear lived.
Like the mystery of fog and the way it makes me feel, coyotes also hold a similar sacred space. They are a tether to the wide-open plains where I grew up and the inner wildness instilled by the freedom I was granted to roam that spacious landscape. Coyotes, I’m now realizing are part of my interior geography.
In Native American storytelling, the coyote plays a crucial role. Interestingly enough though, the coyote is seen quite differently from nation to nation, region to region. The familiar thread is that the coyote is generally viewed as a trickster meant to serve as a example of traits that don’t always serve the community. The flip side though is that the coyote’s cleverness can often get them out of certain pickles and predicaments.
When I got out of college, I wanted an adventure. In September of 1988, I went to Auckland, New Zealand to volunteer in the public relations department for a non-denominational radio station, Rhema. While I was there an American man who claimed to be a prophet arranged a visit. I don’t remember his name. He wanted to pray with us all right away when he arrived. I was the only American on staff.
He gathered everyone in a circle, my hair stood up on my neck and arms. I was so certain he was a fake. He singled me out and said, “come here, Dakota, please join us”. I said “no” without any explanation. My colleagues were surprised, but not pushy and let me hang back. Kiwi’s are wonderfully respectful and polite. I looked up while they prayed and watched his body language closely. He opened his eyes to look at me. I didn’t blink.
Of course, the American Prophet wanted the only other American to lend authenticity to him and help advance his narrative. He was seeking, as many before and after him, donations of course, and a larger platform to spread his message about what those donations could do for his personal cause and humanity.
$ I grew up in a household with Tammy Faye and Jim Baker on in the morning. I saw the tricks used to get donations, create false narratives, and get people hooked into the drug of magical thinking—a high that is never ever enough.
As a 22-year-old, I knew that American claiming to be a prophet was a snake oil salesman. I’d been in training to spot what’s inauthentic from a very young age, not the message intended by watching the PTL Club. However, an education I now find myself quite grateful for in hindsight.
This story was a pivotal event in my life. This was when I realized that I no longer had to accept the dogma of my childhood. Or at least that I could personally reject what felt inauthentic to me and navigate the world in a way that honored my inner knowing. I also understood, with maybe even more significance that I could handle the fall out if others thought I was wrong.
“Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. http://www.native-langages.org/plains-coyote.htm
This morning I awakened at five, it was still dark and there was a bit of coastal fog in the air. I sipped my coffee outside and watched the light shift over the bay. In my head, I walked through what I would do if I encountered a coyote on the beach or during the half-mile walk down the hill this morning. I imagined I could be the trickster and outsmart him…magical thinking indeed, Lisa.
I arrived at the beach to pick up garbage and scanned east then west. There was now enough light to see the coyote. I didn’t. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I felt safe to walk the shoreline.
I started noticing the tracks in the sand . I never felt this way before. I had some unfamiliar energy and vigilance.
I thought about my northern Quebec ancestry…fur trappers perhaps? Maybe I should become a wilderness guide or a private investigator? I was heady with possibilities as I walked along.
Then I came upon these sandals and I got a little concerned.
The potential coyote tracks awakened my curiosity today in a way that led to further investigation. I don’t feel tricked. I feel sparked and pretty damn grateful.
PLEASENOTE: I’ve tried to identify online the difference between tracks. I’m well-aware that I could be wrong, but without human prints closeby, it seems to me these are coyote tracks and not those of a large dog. Please let me know. I would like to learn how to easily discern the difference.
The acronym FOG—Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You.
I have loved fog since I was a child, my favorite weatherphenomenon by far. What I find so alluring and mysterious about fog is what’s UNSEEN. That’s precisely why I find this the perfect acronym for these complex and often confusing emotions.
We don’t know what’s happening around us until the sun burns away what’s obscured from our vision and then we’re able to gain more clarity.
Fear is a mental process that that triggers a physical response in humans when confronted by a threat.
Obligation comes from an innate sense of community responsibility. We are born with an instinctive sense of obligation to those around us.
Guilt comes from the same root as obligation. Most of us feel guilt when we do something that we think hurts others or disappoints of others.
“Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.”
Source: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
When someone is trapped in the FOG of an unhealthy relationship, a common method of control is the use of gaslighting.
Gaslighting deploys often repeated phrases and makes us doubt our own beliefs, even when there’s overwhelming and well-documented information to the contrary.
Here’s an example of gaslighting: The world-wide virus, Covid19 is a Hoax, a Plandemic designed to make this administration look bad before the 2020 election.
This can’t possibly be true—173,000 people in America have died so far from the virus and 1000 Americans are dying every day. Being told repeatedly that the US is managing the virus better than most other countries is false, often repeated, and done deliberately to make people doubt the well-documented reality that the virus is ravaging our nation on so many levels. There were protocols in place for how to manage a likely pandemic. They have been ignored by the Trump administration.
Clearing away the FOG will allow more visibility into the reality of your relationships and how they may be affecting your health and quality of life. No one should live in a constant state of FEAR, OBLIGATION, and GUILT.
If you find yourself in a challenging relationship of any kind, the OUT of the FOG website provides very help information. There are tips about how to take care of yourself, respond with compassion to difficult circumstances, put appropriate (and loving) boundaries in place, and when to seek professional guidance to navigate turbulent emotional waters.
Today, on my walk I encountered two women. Wearing a pink, Live Generously t-shirt, an older woman ignored my friendly hello for the fifth day in a row. The second woman, younger, walking two labs—one brown, one yellow turned away when I said good morning. I will keep trying.