Lost stars

CYBER

Suppose for a moment you were lost, searching for the meaning of life, searching for a reason to belong, searching for a reason to live.

Where would you turn? What would you do?

The answer is quite clear, to me anyway. People turn to the next best thing if real people aren’t around, Facebook for the adult crowd, some other sort of social media for all the hep hipsters.

Have you noticed how some people pour out their souls, their drama, their mundane details of life on Facebook? Why would they do that?

Because they are searching for human contact.

We need human contact. We need to make some kind of connection. We are all so alone.

We all read our scripts, and we respond, and we go along our merry ways. We sit across from each other in a restaurant, but we don’t talk. We scroll FB, reading the last news. We check, check, check our text messages.

Maybe we tweet the maximum characters. Maybe we prefer Snapchat.

But we don’t chat. Not in person. Not anymore.

It’s just not cool to become intimate. We need a wall between us, a place to hide.

It’s easier to deal with rejection that way.

The price we pay for the lack of intimacy and connection is emptiness. There is nothing like that hollow feeling, except maybe death. I’m not sure which is worse, emptiness or death.

So what do we do after we have built this wall to protect our fragile egos?

We wait.

And wait.

And wait for the right person to tear it down, to scale it, to fashion a door, anything. We NEED someone to think we’re worth the effort to get past our walls.

And when it doesn’t happen, we venture out and go right back to the place that put us in solitary confinement—social media.

When we are lonely and desperate, hurting and sad, seeking and needing, we pour out our feelings, hoping that someone will listen, better yet, that SOMEONE will respond.

Truth be told, on many occasions, I’ve often wished I could text God or at least send him a private message on Facebook when in reality all I need to do is to talk to him via what most people call prayer.

The trouble is we only know how to communicate electronically these days. We have forgotten how to use our heads and our hearts.

I used to think, “Why is that person on Facebook telling me all about his despicable day? Why is she telling me what she had for supper and what caused her to stub her toe?”

But I know.

It’s that hollow feeling.

We have become so advanced that we’ve learned to travel far, far away from each other. We’re free falling into ourselves, and the space is immense, expanding like the Universe.

And the emptiness scares us. It reminds us how alone we are.

Oh, some say, just turn to God.

But what about those who can’t find God?

What about those who actually go into churches to seek him?

The signs on the building suggest He is there. But when they walk in, they look around and find busy, busy people—not God.

They meet rejection head on because the busy people are too busy to get to know them, let alone invest in them.

They judge them on the length of their hair, the color of their skin, the price tag on their clothes. Maybe they judge them by much they weigh, how old they are, how young they are, how educated they are, and so on and so on.

Or maybe no one notices they are there.

The youth groups are busy, busy planning their mission trips to help needy souls on the beach, at the ski resorts, or in foreign countries. They don’t see the intruder.

The women’s groups are busy, busy planning their next retreat, their next social event, their next charity event, too busy, busy to deal with the intruder.

And the other busy people?

He’s on this committee. She’s on that committee.

Heaven help the intruder who shows up at the wrong time during the wrong committee, especially committees searching for beautiful people who will make them feel good about their own imperfect, fat, uneducated, slothful, gossiping selves.

And, yes, I said intruder because outsiders disrupt the balance. Insiders have to stop what they’re doing to move over in the pew to make room for somebody else.

So what’s a poor, empty outsider soul to do?

Probably the same thing many other lonely people do. They go in search of people like themselves.

And, as I said before, what better place to find other lonely souls than the modern public forum, social media, a place where lonely people can send a message into the Universe just to see if anyone else is listening?

I know. I’ve been both the outsider and the busy, busy insider.

If you have found where you belong, in church or wherever, do you make the effort to search for lost stars?

If the answer is no, then why not? Are you too busy, or would the situation become too uncomfortable if you found one?

By the way, thank you for taking time to connect with me via my blog. I wish we could sit and chat eye to eye over a cup of tea or coffee. But that, I’m afraid, will never happen. My fault or yours. It doesn’t matter. It just is what it is.

So I ask a sincere favor of you, my friend. The next time you find yourself launching your FB app, ask yourself a couple of questions.

What are you REALLY doing? What do you really need?

Whatever you’re doing, whatever you need, I hope you find it. Connect.

HOPE

Take these broken wings

I present to you a blog about birds, laced with metaphors, subtext, and me. I hope you understand.

I want to fly. I want to travel, to go to Ireland. I want to do things I’ve never done. I want to write a book. I want to write a song. I want to sing. I want to paint, to draw, to write poems, to create. So do it, you say.

I have been making progress. It takes time you know, to learn, to figure out how all of this works. And I will continue. Soon. But right now I’m on my perch.

Perching birds are called passerines, so go ahead and call me a passerine. The name means sparrow shaped. Passerines are songbirds. So maybe perching is just natural for me. I aim to soar. But I’m not an eagle. I’m not a bird of prey.

I am a passerine like a sparrow or a raven or a cuckoo. Yes, go ahead and laugh. It’s all starting to make sense now. Just remember it’s only natural for a passerine to perch.

Ornithologists tell us passerines are the most advanced birds, as well as the most adaptive and the most intelligent. Though they perch, they aren’t necessarily caged.

Need I remind you that blackbirds are passerines too? Thank you, Paul McCartney for creating a song for me. I’m sure there were others more worthy than I to be the subject of a song, but for someone who understands what it’s like to live with broken wings, your song is my epiphany.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

I know my moment has arisen, but I’m still learning. And learning and practicing, and learning and practicing can be exhausting. Sometimes I need to rest and to observe. I’m steadying myself and resting for a bit, locked in for safety’s sake.

Perching birds do that, you know. As they sleep, the muscles in their little legs actually “lock in” so that they don’t fall while they are sleeping. Of course, all birds, all beings, need to rest. But resting for a passerine is dangerous. It’s easy for a predator to swoop in and devour the vulnerable bird.

Though passerines are wild and free, there’s something to be said for the kind souls who provide these birds with shelter, building them birdhouses, filling their bird feeders and baths. And thankfully, though they love them so, these kind souls don’t try to cage the birds. When the birds need to fly, they fly. But they come back. They are caught but not caged.

I’m sure all passerines appreciate a safe place to land, especially the blackbirds.

And by the way, there are a couple things I might add about blackbirds. They like to sing particularly after a rain. Listen closely, for their first songs of the year are usually heard at the end of January or early February.

As for myself, I have been flying into the light of a dark black night for sometime now. I’m weary, so I’m perching. I’m thankful not to be caged, but I wouldn’t mind being caught.

A bohemian antidote to drama and negative vibes

JOY

Last week my creative writing students were working from Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. After we read her chapter on the “drama” in our lives, we jumped into the initiation activity—finding an antidote to life’s drama that robs us from the freedom to enjoy our creativity.

Cameron suggested we spend thirty minutes composing a list of 100 things we love. Focusing on the positive raises our spirits. When we feel good, our productivity increases.

We had so much fun with the activity that one of my students suggested we transfer the list to our blogs. A list of 100 may be a bit much for our readers to sort through, so I suggested we focus on our Top Ten or Top Twenty.

My students inspired me to share my own list, so here it goes. I encourage you to add your own list to the comments, or maybe share a few comments about common interests we share.

Whatever the case, let’s take a moment to be thankful for the things we love.

MY LIST OF LOVES

Of course, God, family, and friends take top priority as the focus of the true definition of love, so my list includes the things that I love in a sense that they just make me happy. Happy is a good thing.

  1. In-depth conversations with my cat, Stevie Ray
  2. Going on road trips in my blue Mustang, named Elvis
  3. My close relationship with my Takamine guitar
  4. My telecaster, a guitar that changed everything
  5. Bohemian clothing, jewelry, and home furnishings
  6. Fire (candles, fireplaces, bonfires, campfires, performance art with fire and hula hoops)
  7. Candles with different scents for different moods
  8. Mosaics in rugs, jewelry, furniture, art
  9. Celtic music and art
  10. Spontaneous adventures to new places
  11. People watching
  12. Coffee shops
  13. Beale Street in Memphis
  14. Ghost walks and history tours
  15. Watching the sunrise
  16. Taking pictures of mushrooms
  17. Interpreting dreams
  18. The taste of lime
  19. Pumpkins (and pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin scones and pumpkin bread and pumpkin candles)
  20. Moonlight

Boundaries and the free spirit

ROM BOUND

I bought a bracelet the other day at High Cotton, a Manchester boutique filled with trinkets and trophies of Southern grace and charm. I was looking for a treasure. I found it.

Stamped metal. A variety of colors. Two words.

After browsing the other hand-crafted jewelry, scented candles, and one-of-a-kind finds, I made my way to the counter, somewhat reluctantly. I didn’t want my quest to end, but I was satisfied. I enjoyed my treasure hunt, especially because what I found was inscripted with the motto of my life.

“I knew you’d like that,” the owner said, carefully placing my bracelet in a bag. “It has you written all over it.”

And indeed it did, literally, stamped in the metal — FREE SPIRIT.

I have fought hard for the right to call myself a free spirit. I think about a lyric from one of my favorite Eagles songs “Already Gone”:

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains / And we never even know we have the key.

The key to my freedom, oddly enough, is that I have had to learn to set up boundaries around my life. It’s what we all must do if we truly want to be free. And I’m still learning. Still learning.

Without these boundaries, we allow intruders to enter our space, our minds, our homes, our hearts. They steal those things we value most — our creativity, our time, our confidence, our peace, our joy, our resources, our choices, our dignity.

We live in chains when we allow others to define who we are and who we want to become. Nobody wants to be labeled. Sometimes we feel forced, destined to live up to the label. The only people who have the right to label who are are and who we are to become are ourselves. Labels chain us to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What if God has a wonderful destination for us, yet we choose to be chained to a vision of what others think we are supposed to be?

Young people, for example, often enter college with a plan to major in a field their parents deem acceptable. But will they be happy? Will they spend their lives chained to someone else’s dreams?

I say find a job you love so that you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Sometimes we’re on our merry way to our aspirations only to be hijacked into taking a guilt trip with a driver who demands we give up our free time to work on a project we’re not vested in.

Serving is honorable, but why give and grumble at the same time? We can’t be two places at once. While we’re busy being people pleasers, we may miss our opportunity to meet our calling. It’s okay to say “no.”

“No,” is a little bitty word with two little bitty letters, yet “no” is a mighty fortress that protects us all. “No” is our key. “No” helps us establish boundaries, and “boundaries” protect our freedom.

Other people invade our space, cross our boundaries, hurt our hearts, maybe even our bodies, in a multitude of ways. Our dignities are precious, so is our confidence. These space invaders may go as far as being bullies. While bullying is a hot topic these days, we must realize it’s not limited to the playground.

Bullying takes place in the home, in the work place, among friends. We must, must, must establish our boundaries. Our freedom depends on it. We can say no to the thieves who take away our dreams, our safety, our happiness, our confidence, our time, our security, etc.

While we place great emphasis on punishing the bullies, I think we would have better results if we helped victims learn HOW to set boundaries, if we helped victims learn they are WORTHY of setting boundaries around their lives.

We must also remember we can’t cross other peoples’ boundaries. No one else is responsible for our own happiness.

I think the worst kind of bondage comes when we are so used to being held down that we blame EVERYTHING in life on the person or the thing that first took away our freedom.

We give up. We give in. We live our life in chains.

Sometimes we have to learn through trial and error that WE really do hold the key. God watches over those who choose Him. He understands our struggles, our mistakes, and He patiently uses those things to grow us, to help us establish boundaries, despite the ill wishes of our enemies.

I’m particularly fond of a line of a poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien:

Not all those who wander are lost.

Those outside our skin may think we’re wandering aimlessly. But what if God has allowed us to take the scenic route for a period? Maybe He wants to grow us. Maybe He wants to teach us.

Maybe in wandering, we find the truth and set our spirits free.

Purple Snow

60719-Reflecting-Purple-Snow

When I was a little girl, I remember staring out the window on a snow day. The ground was blanketed, and I took comfort from behind a chilled window pane. Even though I couldn’t have been more than five years old, I was moved by the beauty.

At five years old, I was fearless. I was everything I wanted to be. I was an artist–a painter, a writer, a musician, a poet. When I saw the snow, I grabbed my crayons and construction paper and set out to put on paper the beauty I saw outside my window. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. It had become a part of me, and even those things we carry on the inside don’t last forever. That’s why we must keep them somewhere else other than locked in our hearts. A heart is easily fooled, and sometimes we don’t remember things the way they really were.

I think I worked for hours on my picture, and when I finished, I was so proud. I showed it to my mother, who looked at it with some sort of bewilderment.

“Why did you color the snow PURPLE?”

Why not?

When I looked outside the window, that’s what I saw. I saw snow, but I also saw the color purple. I’m not sure why. Even today when I look back on the moment I still see the color purple.

Maybe I saw the shadows in the snow that appeared to tint the frozen wonderland a lovely shade of lavender.

Maybe my child subconscious somehow knew that purple symbolizes all things magical and mysterious. Purple is the color of spirituality, the color of creativity, the color of dignity, and the color of royalty.

I can’t explain why I saw purple when everyone else saw white.

Now that I am a teacher, I still see purple when others see no color at all.

I see young minds who also see their own colors. They resist being told to see the color everyone else wants them to see. How can they be free thinkers if their thoughts are limited to a list of standards, thoughts that are common to the core?

How would Emerson and Thoreau respond? Perhaps it’s time we all retreat to the woods and demand “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” Let us march to the beat of our own drummer instead of having to line up as carbon copy soldiers in neatly spaced rows.

Some of us are not meant to follow the crowd. Some of us choose our own paths, the road less traveled.

A gypsy spirit cannot be confined; a bohemian soul doesn’t see life in black and white. Open space. Vivid colors. Beauty.

When we cage our people, we take away their freedom. When we cage their thoughts, we make them conform to common expectations. When we demand conformity, we limit the growth of the individual. While the majority diminishes in self, the elite prosper. And the world evolves into what only a few would have it be.

Ask Maya Angelou why the caged bird sings.

Fall is in the air now. Earthly tones paint our lives, sunflower yellows, pumpkin oranges, mum violets, and fallen leaf rusts. The world is beautiful and bright–now. But winter is on the way. Prepare yourselves for shades of grey.

I, however, am looking for purple.

My bohemian soul

Add color everywhere, even in the most unusual places. Paint your world.

Add color everywhere, even in the most unusual places. Paint your world.

I’m not a hedonistic person by any means, but I sure do like using the five senses God gave me. Black and and white and gray are good, but full color is so much better.

I’m a night owl by nature, but there is only so much you can see in the darkness. Lighting is everything. In photography. In life. And that is why almost every room of my house has an abundance of candles. I like the way each candle flickers and illuminates everything around it. The right lighting can change the mood and the plot of every life story.

Early morning lighting is like a breath. Take it in, let it out, it’s gone. But it’s beautiful.

Usually the only time I catch the sunrise is after I have been awake all night, usually after writing for an extended period. I rarely can write snippets. When I do, I typically end up discarding them.

When I write, I’m rewarded by the sunrise. It’s as if to say, “Well done. Here is your reward. It’s not a prize; it’s an experience.” Every sunrise is an experience. And that is why the sunrise holds so much meaning for me.

I remember a trip to Montana, standing on a deck with a blanket wrapped around me, waiting for the sunrise. I remember early morning trips for coffee, riding into the sunrise. I remember waking up after sleeping all night in a tent in a pasture on the edge of the woods, a horse’s muzzle within inches of my fingertips and the sunrise saying hello.

And though every sunrise is fleeting, very sunrise has with it the potential for its coordinating memory to be carried the rest of our lives. Memories sustain us and remind us what is good and what is bad so that we can set our feet in the right direction.

My friend Emily concurs with her description of the sun, its lights and colors:

You dropped a purple raveling in,
You dropped an amber thread;
And now you’ve littered all the East
With duds of emerald!

I like sunrises better than sunsets because sunrises say hello and sunsets say goodbye.

Sunrise or sunset, I do enjoy the color. Full color, full of life.

In my life’s journey, I’ve discovered that we can spend our days storing away our treasures without taking time to enjoy them.

But wouldn’t it be better to have less and to fully embrace what we have rather than to have our treasure chests full and never see their colors?

Our treasures are not our silver and gold. Our treasures are the moments we spend with the people we love.

The Stage Manager in Our Town makes a poignant revelation:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

I especially like the follow-up question from another Emily I’ve come to know. She asks, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

And the stage manager responds, “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

I’ve often wondered why since a child I’ve been drawn to all things colorful, expressive, beautiful, poetical, musical, artistic, and harmonious. Now I know.

I have a bohemian soul.

I’ll be watching you

SEA

Today’s blog (though greatly delayed) is inspired by the Daily Prompt:

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?

Being the dreamer I am, I’ve often thought about what it would be like to have a Time Machine so I could pick any era, step in, experience the culture, and talk to my literary heroes of days gone by. Here’s how I think it would go, meeting the Father of the Modern Detective Story, the master of bloody horror, the man of constant sorrow, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar, buddy, what’s the deal with your fixation on beautiful dead women? You’re a rock star, man. Live it! The ladies swoon when you recite your verses. Take a look around. There are a lot of living, breathing women here who would love to be the object of your affection, poetry, and prose. But no, you bust your rhymes about that crazy ghost chick Lenore. And what’s up with hearts hidden under floorboards and big-eyed men, draped in gossamer gowns? Dude, if my man Shemar (Derrick Morgan on Criminal Minds) profiled you, he’d peg you as a serial killer. You aren’t…are you? Hey, stay away from the sewer rats. They aren’t kittens, and I hear they’ll give you rabies.

Hmmm. I fear I’ve traveled back to 1990s rap while talking to an 1840s writer. Whatever.

Let’s get back to the prompt. I hold the record for the high school student who has been retained the longest number of years. Yep. I put on my cap and gown in the 80’s, turned my tassel, but still haven’t walked out these high school doors. It’s like permanent detention, Groundhog Day style. I wake up and live it again. Same places, different faces. I delight in kids but bear great disdain for being controlled by the State. Let me teach, let me teach, let me teach, Mr. Grinch. You’re a mean one, rotten to the “Core.”

If I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll daydream them to death. An Anywhere Door would do the trick. Where would I go? What would I do?

Right now, I think I would like to go to the beach. I’m ready for a slow down. There is little to do at the beach other than to hang out with Mother Nature. Most people dig the sunlight My fair skin isn’t a fan, so I prefer the moonlight and the stars over the ocean. My Anywhere Door would take me to a place where all my five senses (maybe six) could kick in and kick back. Ah, the sweet sensation of a nautical getaway…

I want to watch the sun paint ribbons in the sky
Hear lap, lap swishes and the seagull’s cry
Sink my toes in the sand, be blanketed by sun
Taste fresh key lime pie, be tempted by rum
Smell briney mud and sea-salted air
And know without knowing answers to my prayers

People always tell me, girl, you live in the past. Embrace the moment. Stop wishing your life away. Bloom where you are planted. Okay, maybe I need to re-think my decisions.

What if the Time Machine breaks and I get stuck in the past? I don’t want to go back. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. What if the Anywhere Door leaves me stranded and I can’t put my feet on familiar ground? There are some good things about right now I don’t want to lose. Bad choices, bad choices, what’s a girl to do?

All I have left is the Invisibility Helmet. I can’t re-live the past or skip to my future. I need to focus on right now. I just need a little help seeing. If only I had better eyes, ones that could see everything I’m missing, then I would know whom I could really trust.

Don’t you think our eyes are opened when others don’t think we’re watching.

If I had an Invisibility Helmet, I could walk into your circle of friends and hear what you say about me when I’m not around. I could truly be like the Teacher with Eyes in the Back of Her Head. I could see who is cheating and who is not.

On a lighter note, I could walk into a Starbucks and walk away with all the Frappacinos. I could drive my car 160 mpg and never get a ticket. I could plant dreams in people’s minds by whispering in their ears as they fall asleep. I could spy on my cat and see what he really does when I’m not in the room.

So, I’ll take the Invisibility Helmet. I’m always watching, always. You may not realize it, but I’m watching you. Right now. I’m taking notes, just like Harriet the Spy. These notes, I’m sure, will make a great book. Someday.

I’m always looking for answers, always. Even if they’re right under my nose, I keep looking for what I want to see. The problem is I don’t see what I don’t want to see. Heck, maybe I’m already wearing the Invisibility Helmet. Instead of hiding me, it hides what I don’t want to acknowledge.

Everybody knows there are no calories in chocolate when you’re stressed out and on vacation. There are no dirty dishes or dirt on the floor when the sun begs you to leave the house. And then there are those other things we choose not to see….

Time Machine, Anywhere Door, or Invisibility Helmet? Choose your choice. What would it be?