Friday, July 31, 2015

I Am Mercury

Some times you test yourself. It is exhausting, harrowing yet full of elation when you meet the challenges you face. I love travel. I look forward to the chance to experience different places. I love savoring unique foods, events, sights, and learning history. I work various gigs that challenge me as a storyteller. They are rewarding in different ways, demanding different styles, approaches and material. In my life work and play are one and the same.
These require two factors: money and time. Last Wednesday I was handed six contracts in five states to complete between Monday and Thursday this week. Travel expenses were covered. I scrambled madly online to research reasonable estimates, then after approval to go back and complete reservations.
It would have been a lot on its own. I had to plan a trip crossing through five states in four days, to prepare materials and appointments for each of the six jobs. At the same time I was finishing my packing and leaving Thursday morning to drive from Colorado to the Chicago area so I could be ready to entertain in the lanes of a major festival on the weekend.
I felt like I was staring at a cliff face. I did the same thing I've done when faced with sheer rock walls. I put on my ropes, prepped and raced into the climb, putting stress out of mind. Focus on the handholds. Focus on the ledges where I could sit and look out above clouds, above the dark brown feathers of hawks. Look down with caution. Shout for help and try all advice when the rock crumbles in your hand, leaving you dangling despite careful planning.
The trip from Colorado was long, I went past Council Bluffs wishing I had time to stop and visit. Many enticing sites went by as I rolled like a mercury marble through Nebraska and Iowa. The rows of corn were golden in the sunset. I could have driven the same mile a hundred times and not realized it. The corn seemed endless. Wisconsin's variety of trees and scenery were a reprieve from the continous corn.
The festival was wonderful, complex and full of sights, sounds, and enticing scents.  I met hundreds of people, told hundreds of stories, painting bloomed on my painted dress as children painted with laughter and smiles. My focus was the moment. One moment leads to another. You cannot truly live if your mind in constantly running on yesterday's treadmill or obsessing on tomorrow's trepidations. This moment, right now is where you are. When you choose to be here, the rest follows naturally.
Sunday night, weekend over, packing for my epic week began. It was simple. I do not need much. Sadhu went to a friend's for the week. It was hard to leave my traveling companions: Danny and Gracie goose went to Minnesota when I came to Chicago. Here I was saying goodbye to my constant companion, already missing his squeaky purr and gentle wrestling as I went back to my room to sleep for two hours before leaving for the airport.
Two hours sleep and I headed into Chicago. Chicago still slept as I went through security. My flights went without any issues. The clouds looked beautiful as we flew above them.
I lost a major handhold when I reached the rental car area. I do not believe in credit cards. I use PayPal. I use a PayPal debit card. I called Budget rental last Wednesday after seeing on their website they accept debit cards. The person I spoke with told me my PayPal debit card would be accepted without issues as long as I had a round trip flight. I made my reservation and received confirmation. Monday midday I stood at their desktop in the Charleston airport facing an older woman who had a look of contrived apathy as she declined my PayPal card. She smiled and told me she and the others accept Google Wallet cards and debit cards attached to bank accounts- just not PayPal. When I asked to speak to a manager I was given a pamphlet with an 800 number then ignored. When I called the number it was quickly apparent the person at the other end was paid to regurgitate a specific speech. She did so with detachment. I've heard electronic voices with more empathy. She didn't even acknowledge I was human. I was the automated part of the system. I could have said there was an orgy in the parking lot. She still would have said "we waived the cancellation fee and cancelled your reservation. Have a nice day." As if this was great news that somehow getting that ten dollars back would make up for my plans dangling in space.
I tried some of the others. They were polite but no help. Credit only. Sorry.
I typed a plea for aid and friends across the country threw a flurry of suggestions. As I tried them I gave feedback. All excellent suggestions. I let my employer know my status. He started thinking options too, Enterprise came up repeatedly.
Enterprise said they had no problem with my PayPal card but they were out of cars until sometime hours later in the day. They were real, they had empathy. They apologized. I was shocked, I said "you have nothing to apologize for. I will wait as long as I need to I am just grateful that you are here, willing to help." We said goodbye, I focused on work.
There is only so much in a day.
I had my first gig at two pm on the other side of Charleston. I put my travel issues on hold, grabbed my duffle with one hour to get to the location I stepped into a bus.
Twenty minutes to the appointment, six blocks to walk, phone dying I raced across downtown Charleston too fast to appreciate the sights. I arrived several minutes late, looking like I'd walked through the desert. I felt like I had. Sitting in air conditioning became the biggest challenge. I struggled to stay awake. Sleep was seductive. I barely won my struggle, and in part because we took time to get up and take a tour of the building.
Everything went well. I stepped back into the street. I took a moment to admire the architecture of the U.S. Customs House. I started my walk back to the visitor center. Market street was full of restaurants that sounded delectable. I passed a smiling young man weaving palm fronds into flowers for tips. His smile bolstered my flagging stamina.
I paused near carriages waiting for tourists. I called Enterprise, did a formal reservation then had help from a gregarious fellow outside a gas station. He nabbed a taxi for me as the driver stopped to buy cigarettes. I was back to the airport and effortlessly, without a hitch settled into a tiny little blue Fiat.
This strong handhold held, and I raced up the rocks again. Seven hours later I stepped into the front door of Econo Lodge in Virginia Beach. My room was ready. At two am, I soaked sore muscles and nervous energy into a hot bath. By two thirty my alarm was set and I was oblivious to the world.
Tuesday started with work schedule confirmations and a trip to the beach. I didn't have long to play, an afternoon appointment near Charlotte, North Carolina meant I had to lunge forward again. Each gig had to be allowed to progress naturally without any hint of rushing.
I chased and was chased by a crab in the waves. I watched tourists and large boats. I left for work. It wasn't long before I was in North Carolina surrounded by the sound of cicadas. Another days work done, three gigs down and I was headed to see friends I've dearly missed.
We got to visit in person, another night passed too quickly. Atlanta came up in my sights. Another snag had me readjust: instead of doing two gigs in Atlanta in one day I had to do one, then wait and do the other Thursday afternoon- putting my estimated return to the airport off. Shrinking the time I'd get to visit with my friend Mick in Columbia, South Carolina. I watched Wednesday's sunset as I crossed into Alabama.
I slept comfortably at La Quinta and did my gig there, leaving the state before noon. Atlanta with its congested traffic and obnoxious tailgating bogged me down an extra hour and a half.
My last gig was finally finished. Still paperwork to do, but it was time to make my return.
Time was my opponent, slipping away from me as I pushed forward, as if it were a stick I was trying to fish from a fast moving river without falling in.
Back at the airport, forewarned enterprise might charge for an extra day. I accepted that with gratitude earlier in the day when I called. I returned ten minutes before they closed at midnight. I returned the keys with more real appreciation and gratitude. I was not charged am extra day or fuel. I've got a favorite car rental company due to both experiences. They gave me the support I needed and thought I had put in place with Budget  before traveling.
At five am I leave here. I'm getting to know the Charleston airport construction crew. Miguel and his partner told me a good place for a safe siesta, the men and women work night shift have each chatted with me and made me feel safe and welcomed here. I've got angels in neon yellow vests and hard hats around me, I couldn't be safer.
This trip has enticed me. I want to come back to visit Roanoke Island, Myrtle Beach, wander Market street in Charleston, get a tattoo in Charleston from my friend at the award winning Animated Custom Tattoo shop on Augusta Road. I want to go to some of the area events to sample the renowned cuisine of the food trucks there, including Too Stuffed To Fly.
I loved the salad from the Deli food truck that my friend Mick's girlfriend made. It was the best food I've eaten all week! The best salad I've had in a long time!
I want to visit the site in Alabama where they honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the Laurel and Hardy Museum. I want more time to catch in person visits with family and friends. I want to go back to Ruby Falls, Fairyland Caverns, and Stone Mountain. I want to get over to Asheville.
It's always good to have gleaming thoughts of places to someday visit. It's priceless to get to hug and visit in person with people you love, especially when you thought it would be years before you got to step into their lives again.
Maybe you'll meet Newsstand Dan as well as he travels doing headstands at famous places all over the world. He has visited forty states and well over 200 countries. I persused the pictures with him as we waited for today's flight out of Charleston.
Headstand Dan is out there pursuing his World Record, living and having the spark of adventure charging him with vitality and contentment. I think of his last statement: find something you can do to set a record, something unique and fun that you can capture in a picture. Wonderful and powerful wisdom in one eloquent sentence. Everyone should set such chase such interesting dreams and dream such adventurous goals.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Are you stuck?

I just made myself shudder. If you are stuck, it is inventory time. The word inventory brings to mind a large retail store with a never ending checklist and tedious cataloging. I'm not referring to that kind of inventory.

Part of the human condition seems to be struggling against our own inner demons, the parts of ourselves that critically observe and paint the details of our spirit in the harshest tones and most painful lighting. To many of us our defects and deficiencies are glaring and they overshadow our perception of ourselves. Let me frame it up for the rest of you. Pretend that three friends are standing at a lookout point, looking out across the mountains. Two friends are looking at the beautiful view, enjoying the pine scent in the air and the sweet birdsong. The third friend is stuck in the car looking for their shoes, only seeing the cluttered mess of the car, the check engine light glaring, and the stink of french fries that fell in the crack between seats. The third friend is still at a beautiful place, but can't get out of the car to appreciate it. In their mind they have to put their shoes on, then their mind gets distracted by other negatives and they spend their time trying to fix the car. Sadly, they're trying to fix the car without the right tools in the wrong place.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Inspiration Point View

Do you find yourself being that third friend quite often? Listening to your friends talk about all of the places they have been, the adventures they have had, while you have tried so hard to go forward while you are running in place?

Inventories are tools that you can use to monitor yourself. When you are looking to make changes, to go from the person stuck in the car to being the one out ahead of everyone on life's adventures an inventory creates a map for you. There are many types of maps. Different inventories come together to give you a complete picture. Diet, exercise, nutrition, sleep, behavior, mood can all be monitored. You learn a lot about yourself through self monitoring. You can identify things you want to change. You can see patterns emerge from food sensitivities that affect behavior to triggers of negative behaviors and thought patterns.

Instead of the pity train and the nobody loves me song; try setting goals. Stop basing your emotional state and self worth on the words of others. If you have trouble remembering your positive moments and achievements, start tracking them. Start journaling on the positives in your life. Break out of the negative cycle. I'm not saying go into happy delusional denial, we all need to tune in, speak up and become active in shaping our communities and how we interact with the world. It isn't like there is a back up world that comes out after we screw this one up for someone's 'killer' profits.

Sounds hard? Sounds tedious?

How about goal setting? What do you want to do with your life? Picture yourself at age 90. Talk to yourself, what would you tell you to go do? What experiences would you want to be able to remember?

Observation Tower View, Outside Rollinsville Colorado

Give yourself direction. Do you want to visit a desert? Do you want to pick fruit fresh from the plant? Do you want to have an apiary? What shows, concerts, and entertainment venues do you wish you could see? What places have you put off traveling to see? What foods have you never tried? In your heart, what experiences would make you smile when you wake up?

What experiences would motivate you to step beyond that messy, cramped car? What holds you back?

Danny Lord enjoys the view on Flagstaff Summit outside Boulder Colorado

When we get into a negative mindset, we become overly critical of ourselves. We punish ourselves and sometimes resent the people who do not seem to have the same struggles we do. Misery loves company, and in our minds we find ourselves wanting them to 'pay' for being free. That is backward. We should be reaching out to them saying "throw me a rope, I am stuck." We should be learning from them and appreciating them. They've won a battle that we fight and lose ground to every day. Perhaps because they never chose that fight, they never fell into the trap we are caught in.

On a cloudy sunday, I ask you to do one thing.

Do something today that brings a real smile, a true laugh, and creates a memory that you will be glad to have when you are 90.

 Set your fears, self recriminations and judgments aside; life is too short to spend it stuck in one little box. You are the only person who can make the choice to get out and live, you are the only one who determines how you see yourself, how you feel about yourself, and how you see the world. The rest of us can tell you the vistas are beautiful, that you are incredible and worth loving, but you make the choice whether to listen or tune us out.
Indian Paintbrush at Sunset

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Dose of Sanity: My Friends are Elephants

In the social media age, outrage has become a daily thing. Often we get outraged at misinformation and omission of facts. I'm going to share my experiences and observations. I ask you. Do your own homework!

Earlier this year, Ringling gave into the constant barrage of criticism and protesting of PETA. Don't cheer. They gave in to bullying. Bullying that came from opinions and not facts. Their decision misleads and confuses the public. Are circuses and festivals abusive if they have elephants and other exotic animals working at them?

No. They are not. PETA, pick your battles with more wisdom and less heartstring manipulation. Ten years ago I started storytelling and working sales at renaissance festivals across the country. My friend Rod Baird introduced me to three wonderful, amazing friends. Paige, Jean, and Chrissy. They are three of the elephants who work at renaissance festivals. You may have ridden them. You may have given them fruit, with permission and monitoring of their handlers. You may have laughed watching them play with their hoses and handlers. I have. I have fed them grasses and watched them play ball with a small jack russell terrier during the week, while their handlers smiled and attended to chores. The elephants on renaissance circuit are loved and constantly attended and supported by their owners. Bill Swain has posted education on how many weekends his elephants work, as well as where they spend their time off. The handlers are educated and ethical. Every handler I know, and I know most of them, loves the elephants they work with. Even years later, ask them about the elephants, their eyes light up. They tell story after story, each priceless and beautiful. The elephants diets are monitored, their health is paramount, their happiness even more so. The elephants love working faire. They love you, the patrons. They love the attention.

I worked the Colorado show right next to the elephants. In the morning Rod Baird and I would go and greet the three girls as they came in. We always told Chrissy she was beautiful. One day we got distracted on our way there, we were looking at pictures of Rod's adorable granddaughter. It started raining pebbles on us. We turned around. Chrissy was waiting! She was trying to give us a gently hint that she missed our morning routine and that we were late.

I have driven past the elephants as they go on walks during the week with their handlers. No leash. What an honor it is to see them enjoying their day, eating and walking around, exploring the area. I hope that you get that chance someday. They do this here, in America, where there are no poachers poised in the bushes to kill them for ivory. But if you feel this is 'torture and inhuman' send them back to Africa where there isn't enough money to hire enough people to keep them safe. Did you miss the news of other countries deciding to keep African animals in zoo programs, where they could live well and safely rather than sending them back to Africa to die at the hands of poachers? Did you forget that poachers are probably sitting back and laughing, counting on impulsive bleeding hearts to fill their greedy coffers and hand them fresh elephants to kill. Way to go 'Merica, perhaps instead of being rash and jumping the gun, do some research. Learn, listen, observe- what you do not understand- ask about, do not assume or drink up on opinions. Facts people.

The day that greed is no longer a word, that apathy is outdated, and that revenge is a thing of the past is the day the human race moves forward. It is too far off yet.

Now, if you really want something to be angry about, go watch "Earthling" it is a documentary. It was highly rated. It was terrible and excellent. You want to change the world? To protect animals, start by pressuring for changes in the meat packing industry, leather industry, and fur trade. You want something at renaissance faires to be indignant about?

You go to renaissance faires and wear a fox tail because it looks 'cool'?

Here's some information for you: those foxes are raised in pens, never knowing the world. They are killed for their furs, they put a rod in the foxes ass. They electrocute the fox. There is your pretty, pretty tail and fox face you just have to have for your "Game of thrones" look.

And if that didn't get you, did you know that originally, those tails were given to the girls the jousters were having sex with, as a polite but visible way for jousters and their friends to know which "hotties" were taken? This was from ancient renaissance faire history, the jousters no longer do this. Many prefer boardgames and raising families over the old rockstar style that some earlier jousters lived back in the 1980s. Next time you go to faire, look at those tails. Think of those thousands of foxes that WERE not well treated, think about those Joust Bunnies and stop buying tails.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mud Pies and Magpies

Colorado has magpies. Beautiful black and white birds, they look like they are prepared to go to a formal event. Tricksters and opportunists they observe and call out in a variety of voices as if they have a hundred other birds songs caught on a secret recorder that they play back to amuse and astound.
I enjoy bird watching. The wheeling buzzards and turkey vultures, the darting little wrens and sparrows, the watchful hawks and owls sitting on branches waiting for mice to move below them. Once I even saw a nighthawk sitting on it's nest. On another occasion I heard the woods fill with the echoing song of Whippoorwills on a Missouri summer night. There is nothing so wonderful as observing nature as it is. Not interfering, not shouting or making loud noises. Not even talking, just sitting and letting life happen around you as if you were a stone or a tree. There is a peace in such observance. Our own petty distractions and illusions fall away. There is what is, the made up stuff vanishes in the sounds and scents of the real world. It is humbling to realize how much of what we focus on and invest our energy in is not even real and does not really matter in the long run. In a hundred years it will not matter what any of us thought of each other. Political views, religious views, even life choices- they will not matter and they will not be remembered beyond generalization.

The sounds of nature are incredible. They surround and soothe. The sounds of animals going about the rituals of life regardless of the head games and complications we like to add to it. The frogs singing for rain, singing for mates. The crickets with their steady beat, keeping time with the sound of the wind through tall grasses and leaves.

Today I head into the city, my significant other continues to rest and heal. I become three different fictional people for a few hours, I do work on contract. I act out a role and fulfill a contract. The work is easy and enjoyable. It is observing others as they work. Allowing people to do their jobs and to take a moment to observe a slice of their lives. Just like when I go out into the woods and watch nature, only I am observing people in an urban setting instead. The same peace and sense of wonderment can be found. The same appreciation for the brighter aspects of watching people be their best, as they go through their every day lives.

It is about being more than what we have chosen to be in the past, to be mindful of the world, respectful of each other. As parts of Society chooses to atone or at least acknowledge past wrongs, we should not turn and attack each other because apologizes and acknowledgements begin offering closure on violent and negative parts of history. We should not hide or try to edit the embarrassing mistakes of the past away; they are the scars that remind us to choose more wisely, more considerately in the future.

Sarcasm is the latest way to excuse ignorance. When a poisonous comment is noted for being inappropriate, the latest excuse is "it is Sarcasm, aren't you smart enough to tell?" No. Sarcasm, when used properly is understood and appreciated. You can't claim sarcasm after you parade your ignorance and toxicity for all to see and read. It is like hitting someone with a baseball bat, then claiming you were killing a mosquito on their head. Seriously. There is a time and place for humor.

Perhaps instead of attacking each other over our differences, it is past time we let go. We stop trying to be little Emperors and Bully Boys. Other people have the right to their own choices in their own lives. It does not matter what we think of them, it does not matter what they think of us. Sit out in nature and listen to the crickets, frogs, birds. Watch the squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits go about their lives. Even with your presence they continue going about their lives. The squirrels may loudly complain you are invading their space. Other than that, the animals go about their lives leaving you to go about yours. Take that lesson and apply it to Social Media, social interactions.

In nature no flower resents another for its color and appearance, they grow and they bloom.

When I was a child I made mudpies on rainy days. Soppy cold water, grainy mud full of pebbles, and whatever random container I could find. No one really wanted them, no one ever ate them. This was always known, yet on rainy days it was fun to make them. It was fun to decide who each one was for. No one ever shattered the illusion with negativity or venom, yet now with the advent of Social Media people cannot wait for the opportunity to verbally slash at each other. Sometimes I post things just to see what angles people will attack from, to see if reason or emotion will be the instigation of ridicule or antagonism. They both come up about 50/50. Both are used to justify behaving like a spoiled teenager on social media. It has become apparent that while we as individuals appear to have maturity, on social media we can be less mature than the teenagers who's behavior we try to shape. They see what we post. They see how we choose to live. We aren't the best role models. We turn them to shopping when they are sad or hurt, eating when they feel lonely, feeling bad about their bodies if they aren't a perfect size two, feeling impotent as politicians continue to be inept and apparently beyond their control.

Time to make mudpies and to go out into nature. Time to relearn how to express our maturity. Time to demonstrate our growth, time to heal each other. Time for us to choose to observe each other at our best, to hold that and continue to respect and treat each other well despite what we were taught.

Today, I have the honor of enjoying part of three people's lives and witnessing their appreciation for the work they do. What are you doing to grow today and can I make you a mudpie the next time it rains?

When was the last time you went out walking, just to look at the moss? 

Colorado's State Flower, Columbine - When was the last time you went in search of wildflowers? 

In a circle all are equal. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Have you tasted the wild fruit?

We are staying with a friend in the mountains of Colorado. My significant other is recovering from heart surgery and dealing with medical issues. The illusion of human immortality has been broken yet again. I follow my friends on Facebook, watching the surgeries, births, deaths, and everyday struggles. I started the day like I did when I was twelve. I took a container outside and crawled around in the lawn. Why? The scent of strawberries, the vibrant splashes of red leaves and berries signaling time for harvesting.

When I was twelve I crawled around in a field next to my house, I spent hours picking berries the size of my fingernails. Each berry had a thousand times more flavor than a large, domesticated berry. It was worth the time and effort for the finest jam I ever made. This is a profound statement. I have made a lot of jams and jellies from Chai Apple Jelly to Queen Anne's Lace Jelly; to say that the wild strawberry was the finest is an impressive designation.

I am almost forty. I am crawling around and picking berries again. Smaller than my fingernails, brighter than a rose and more delicious than any fruit bought in a store. The bottom of the container slowly fills with each berry adding color and volume to the harvest.

Patience and knowledge are necessary in wild harvesting. There is nothing like finding and eating wild food. It is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their lives.

Many people talk about having 'bucket lists' of doing crazy and extreme or obscure things. I think everyone should have on their list learning to recognize wild edible plants and to go out harvesting. There are easy plants to learn: wild strawberries, elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, marion berries, rose hips, puff ball mushrooms, morel mushrooms, wild leeks, wild onions, wild garlic, apples, crabapples, prickly pear, yucca fruit, rhubarb, tiger lily and nasturtium flowers. You can find wild or once domesticated herbs growing: comfrey, plantain, mustard, dandelions, mullein, cattails, cowslips, sage, rosemary, and garlic. You have to be aware of look-alikes and know your plants; but there is nothing like going out into nature with empty hands and coming home with a feast.

One of my favorite plants is Jewelweed or Touch Me Not. Bright yellow and orange flowers, stem full of juice and seed pods that explode on touch shooting seeds like party favors on New Years' Eve. Jewelweed is a wonderful topical antihistamine. Take a piece of the stem, crush it in your fingers until the juice is released. Put the juice on bug bites or poison ivy. Relief! In the warmer regions you can find aloe. Aloe leaves can be ripped open and the inside pulpy juice wiped on sunburns or other skin rashes for succor. What healing tricks do you have from your native plants?
Two little wild strawberries packed with flavor. 

Wild black morel, to learn about wild edible mushrooms join your local and state mushroom hunting groups. Learn from the pros! Safety first!

Nothing is as wonderful as enjoying a fruit fresh from the plant, warmed by the sun and rinsed by the rain. How many children have a concept of where their food really comes from?

If you have no wild places near you, have you considered putting in a garden? Even a small garden with several plants allows you the chance to see life unfold in front of you and offers you the chance to enjoy something you personally have tended. It isn't quite like tasting something wild, but it has it's own merits. Food you have had a hand in raising or harvesting is twice as delicious as any found commercially. Peas, lettuce, onions, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes are easy to raise and make a satisfying start to your farming experience.

Some want a garden without a hassle, without anything to harvest. In that case, rock garden or moss garden would be a delightful endeavor that wouldn't constrain time. A moss garden is as simple as gently transplanting moss from one place to another and watering it thoroughly daily for several weeks. A rock garden is simply finding rocks you like and putting them in an area together; different shapes and sizes, colors and features to make a beautiful display without need for watering or tending.

Life is too short to spend it racing in a constant jog, spinning endless wheels to stay in debt and frustration. Even if your only rebellion is the small freedom of a garden; go for it!

When I come through perhaps we will go for a walk in the wild, I will teach you the plants I know and look forward to learning about the plants you know.

Life is too short. Too many friends face death. Too many that I want to kidnap out into the sun, to fill their last days and moments with wild beauty. I wish that the experiences you have in life are like wild strawberries, concentrated and amazing. Lives full of color and flavor, rather than oversized, bland abundance. Challenge only makes us stronger and more resourceful. Mowing wild strawberries only spreads them in a carpet across your lawn; their bright runners a celebration of the persistence of life. I wish you to thrive like wild fruit, to exceed your own expectations.

Watch the sunset, tune into the world around you. Do you know the calls of the animals in your neighborhood? Do you know the birds? Do you know the trees, shrubs, flowers? Perhaps it is time for you to meet your real neighbors. Whatever else you do today, whatever is going on inside your head, choose to step out for a moment. Choose to be present, here, now, and to savor at least one moment.
Sunset in Blackhawk Colorado, Savoring the moment and letting go of the day. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Being Human Means Choices

This weekend is an exciting start of a wonderful festival I've been looking forward to entertaining at.

Sitting in a room full of monitors holding my significant other's hand, everything I'm hearing is "you can't go now." Reason says you have to, work adds money we need to our coffers. We support each other. The heart says hell no. Instead of letting either decide, while these angels and devils argued I asked my boss for advice and let her in on what's going on. Choices. Stay, go or attempt the herculean task of trying to commute 900 miles for the first few weeks of a show.

Fear paced the floor with me and a thousand negative what ifs. It didn't take long for her to respond. Her response brought tears to my eyes and relief to my heart. Stay. Take care of your significant other, come when everything is resolved. I can't put my words together well enough to say how grateful I am.
So many friends, so much love. I'm looking forward to the day this health situation is resolved, I'm looking forward to getting out my paints, putting on my hat and sharing out the profound love in my heart, paying it forward in magic moments at Bristol.

I read a post on Facebook that asked "Would you give up a thousand dollars to stay with someone you love if they developed a serious health concern?"

Honestly. I would give up more than that. Society pushes and pressures, insinuating that everything falls apart without money. Allegedly primitive cultures do not allow money to be the determining factor in support or life choices, so why should we? I can't put a dollar value on being able to feel the warm, live flesh of my significant other or to hear his voice calm and happy. I refuse to. I will do whatever jobs I need to to get by, whether it's gardening, cleaning, cooking, counseling, tutoring, or entertaining. For the next couple of weeks I'm focusing on my partner's health. Then I'm looking forward to entertaining and sharing the magic and love that surround me from friends across the country.

If you aren't happy, look at the choices you make. Is the duty or social pressure to have money or possessions driving you away from your happiness? Are you struggling to get money for happiness? Did you notice yet, money doesn't lead to happiness- it leads to more stress, conflict, and more wants- it is the most harmful drug ever invented that you don't snort, inject, inhale or swallow. Just the sight of it has led people to fight and kill. We give it more power than any God- every church bows to it, using it for influence and thriving on it.

Perhaps the primitives aren't so primitive?

It's all in how we rationalize it. It's all in our choices and our priorities. Listen to your heart more and your wallet less. Take time today to just appreciate life, friends, flowers, music, stories, art and the sunset. When was the last time you gazed at the stars?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Out of Control: Life

We like to assume that we have control of the events in our lives. We like to think we pull all of our own strings. Accidents, genetics, luck, chance, and random malicious people remind us on occasion how wrong we are. No matter how cautious, regardless of how vigilant, there will always be infinite options we haven't anticipated and may not be able to change. We're always on the road to El Dorado, as human beings it is our nature to seek the fantastic. We never like to think that one day our quest could be disrupted with tubes going in and out of various parts of our bodies. We don't like to think how frail we really are.

This is the slowest three hours I've lived in years. The slowest time since I was treated for cervical cancer. It is amazing how fast time goes when you are in the shower. It's horrendous how slowly it congeals when you wait for word on a loved one's medical conditions.

One of those days where you have no idea what will come, only hopes in the skill of a medical team and odds. It's a day where you don't want a loved one to be an exception.

No matter how much love or prayer is out there, what will be is what will be. We learned that heartbreaking lesson when Rumor died last fall. Hundreds sent prayers, love, light and vibes yet he was cold and stiff and gone when we found him. The love of our friends surrounded us, and gave solace yet there will always be an emptiness. Loss is an emptiness that is impossible to fill, it has to heal and it will never be the same. The subconscious craves completion, strives to find something to fill the void of loss, something to take away the ache from drugs to food or shopping or work- anything to shut down the unbearable pain of not having.

Three hours have passed. Chance, skill, luck, genetics, technology and love perhaps wound together for a good outcome. No amount of money is worth more than holding the warm, live hand of a loved one.

Today, take a moment to tell the people you love that you love them. Tell the ones you appreciate how you feel. Let go of petty preoccupations.

Make good memories, remember life is not always in our control. Do not assume what you always have will always be, savor it while it's there. in the end our experiences are all we have.

I almost drowned once. I was a teenager. I remember the silky elusive footing in the pond. I remember the pain and black in my vision. I remember being alone and letting go. My feet found the solid bottom of the pond and primal survival instinct kicked. I ended up at the shore vomiting and coughing, water running out of my nostrils like twin faucets someone forgot to turn off. In that last moment of awareness before everything went black: memories not posessions and the frustration that there weren't many and that there really weren't many worth having.

I've chosen a hard, beautiful path in life. When that moment comes again I can say the memories I've been making are worth having with people I'm honored to love.

How we choose to perceive our lives, how we choose to interact with each other- these things are critical. No one should need a hand up, we should always have our hands out for each other. This world could use more sharing, caring, and giving and less greed, apathy, and intolerance. In the end, we only have each other. Statistics demonstrate that lives start and end constantly around the world. No one has an expiration date stamped on their wrist, we all have the choice to live or live life like it's a waiting room. I can't force you to choose to live, only you can open the door to life just as you are the only one who can choose to click the the lock and exist on autopilot.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Life Is What You Make of it

Yesterday was a national holiday. Many people sported red, white and blue. Events and fireworks were advertised across the country. What to do?

We decided to go to the events in Nederland Colorado. They started with a parade and listed a variety of fun activities and music throughout the day. The sky was full of fluffy, light gray clouds. We took water, chairs, blankets and rain gear. Colorado weather changes quickly, given a few minutes you could have freezing rain and sweltering heat competing to see how extreme they can be.

Nederland is not a large metropolitan area, it's a small mountain community accented with pine trees, Espresso shops, and friendly locals.

We arrived, suprised by low attendance. There was a variety of great summer activities available to try. Life sized connect four, a giant inflatable to climb around on, life sized Jenga, and human foos ball. People had ramps for radio controlled cars to play on. A master wood carver worked to detail a sculpture of two eagles.

There were around forty people. The clouds might have looked an innocent gray but they rumbled like an aggressive dog. Icy rain and hail pelted us. We dodged under shelter. I realized why attendance was sparse. I feared it would dwindle with repeated bouts of cold, rude rain and jagged stabbing bolts of lightening.

I was delighted when few left. Everyone there was having fun and smiling. We all raced out, milking each rain free moment to play games. Human foos ball was excellent! It was comedic to play and break and play and break. Like playing red light green light with the weather calling the shots.

The power went out throughout the town. Nederland determination turned up a generator, the music played on. No one complained about the weather, we all ignored it together. In a drizzle I played jenga with two amazing kids. Brayden and Kayisha, whose names I've probably mispelled, wore smiles and went from game to game in high spirits.

The fireworks came with smoke, bright explosions above Barker Reservoir and large crowds that seemed to come from nowhere. The display was great, not the largest I've seen but among my favorites because of the whole day. The spirit of the locals, the smiles and positive attitudes. Few people I saw were chained to a smartphone inches from their faces, most danced, talked, played games, enjoyed the food or watched family and friends play games.

Seriously, if you ever get the chance to get out of the big crowd, to go somewhere like Nederland and enjoy a holiday- DO IT! The musicians were great and played despite the weather. The kids and adults made great memories that will last a lifetime- that's worth more than just going to a high budget huge display. I just wish I could have gotten there early enough to cheer on the folks in the pie eating contest.

Life is What you make of it. Yesterday forty plus people chose to make their holiday a great one, they chose not to use unpleasant weather as an excuse to be miserable. They didn't choose to stay home. I was among them and we had a marvelous time. Next time you find yourself glooming, instead consider what you can do to spin things around and bloom. Folks in Nederland Colorado do!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What is Freedom in a Country made of Ad Campaigns?

The Fourth of July started with a beautiful sunrise, cornflower blue sky and wild strawberries ripening in the lawn. A baby rabbit runs out to sneak a taste of succulent grass then races away as the puppy chases it.

You can't put a price tag on it.

Today is a celebration of freedom. The freedom to express beliefs and opinions. People in other countries do not necessarily have that. We have the choice to be active in shaping politics, communities and in the directions we walk in life. Some choose to tune out, to follow money and things, pursuing the pabulum claimed to be news of celebrities instead of actual news. Money's tight right now and I have traveling to do this week. I found a bright pink printed $20,000 bill from a game in the dirt. I thought about how little separates it from real money and how worthless money is when you stare at a sunset or watch a meteor shower.

I think about how we seem to need to buy things, always buy things to demonstrate what we stand for or to feel better or to chase away boredom. It's a hollow pursuit.

I spent a week helping friends move. Vast collections of things, family members deciding what to take and what to yard sale or donate. The mindset of having four or five in different color schemes as necessity makes me cringe, knowing one day that frivolous impulse will result in another overfilled landfill blemish.

What do we do when someone is sad? We feed them, pour them drinks, or buy them something. No wonder so many people feel depressed, disconnected and lost. What happened to listening and being there? Why have we forgotten the true value of real emotional support?

What do we do to celebrate? We eat, drink, and buy more things. What happened to just enjoying the moment? When did the value of a compliment get reduced to clearance prices?

When was the last time you spent the day with someone, just enjoying the time rather than shopping, buying things you don't need? When was the last time you actually talked and put the internet down for a while?

Here's an idea. Empty your pockets. Leave your wallet at home. Go to a shopping center and walk through it, notice how the ads and packaging are all designed to target specific interest groups, how they seem to buddy up or present products as if they are the penultimate thing you never knew you had to have. Study the vast, oversupply of things encouraging shallow, narcissistic egocentrism.

Now picture it all in a landfill. Think of how soon it'll break or the fad will end and the items will be discarded- the cheap possession high long faded and lost with a crumpled receipt on the floor.

Walk the aisles visualizing that.

Now, think of someone you love. What is the most valued memory you have? I think of my great grandmother Alice, sitting and having tea with me. I remember touching the lines on her hands and asking her if I had to have lines like hers when I got old. Her wrinkled perfect smile, the violets we tended in her garden. My grandfather rolling his glass eye to mess with people. The ridiculous and obnoxious antics he did to amuse himself. My other grandfather singing ditties and bouncing the youngest grandchildren on his lap to calm them when they were distressed.

I cannot find these things on a shelf, no sales flyer offers them, and no matter what I buy it is not these moments.

I hope that on Independence Day you choose to liberate yourself from materialism.

Merrill, a friend, always said "that which we enslave, enslaves us." He is correct. Things do not lead to happiness. Living, connecting, caring and accepting that maybe the world isn't less of a priority than self interest. Our society reminds me of undergraduate biology lab. A Petri dish with only so much nutrient in it, yet bacteria will consume it all until they have nothing left. They die. Emptyness around them and within them. I'm humbled that instead of rising above the limited self focused drive of a single cell organism, we instead demonstrate ourselves as fancier, more complicated, self destructive organisms with the same short sighted selfish choices of single cell organisms. I'd like to see us choose more wisely. 

We toxify our world and justify our destruction through rationalization or allow ourselves to tune out by looking away from the damage we do. Time has come to accept responsibility. Freedom has a price. Striving to reach beyond the limitations of our own self absorbed psyches, to evolve, we have to let go of the things we do not need. Our ancestors let go of the tree branches. They stood, uncomfortable at first; they struggled and made tools. It had to be rough, some chose not to stand, some went extinct. That's change. 

Today as you watch fireworks, think of the choices you have. How you spend your time, how you care and interact with others, how active and aware you are of the lives of the folks around you. Do you know your neighbors?

We can choose to enhance each others lives through relearning healthy social support behaviors. Eye contact, putting down the smartphone and conversing with the living beings around you, giving a hand, an ear- who isn't worth a little effort? Maybe if we stop trying to feed and pay off the emptiness within ourselves we can finally connect enough to heal. 

Independence Day, so I hope you choose to use that freedom wisely.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Quantum Highway Leap to Heaven

As a child I watched Michael Landon travel the country, working random jobs to enhance the lives of others in a rustic style. As I grew older I watched Quantum Leap, Scott Bakula shifted bodies like a woman deciding which dress to wear on a first date. Dean Stockwell gave him hints and direction, the two worked to help heal the people they touched. I'm not religious, I have morals and a drive to connect and heal. No labels, it's what I do and am its not out of fear of a fictitious hell or for approval. 

Here I am, almost forty traveling the country storytelling, cleaning, selling, listening, teaching, healing, sharing and doing my best to offer what I can to improve the lives of those I reach and meet. Some days I feel like a Brownie from the old stories, cleaning at night to make houses into beautiful homes. Other days I am cooking delicious Mexican food with Sylvia in the kitchen, two laughing women making tantalizing tamales. Yet other days I might be teaching archery, how to use apps, or giving direction. I might sneak a few minutes to type out inspiration or acknowledgment of a friend's life situation. Sometimes just being there is the best thing I can do, no judgement just an ear or sounding board.

I've been told if I settled in one place I could set foundations to be a recognized and respected storyteller. My feet tell me to keep moving, my spirit says there's more to do and see, my heart accepts the price of not being top of my field because I value those sudden magical moments where I get to witness the positive impact of love that I give. You can't put a price tag on it, it's worth wandering, it is more valuable than fickle fame or notoriety.

I'm living up to my childhood heroes, slipping into and out of places where and when there's need. I let the wind move me where I'm needed next, sometimes there's an idea or goal in mind while other times it's free flight and it can feel like freefall just like the times Scott shifted bodies in dramatic situations.

I don't always know what hat I'm going to wear next, I just hope that I fill the role well enough that the magic happens as it chooses.

Some days I squint in the hot sun wondering if you can have deja vu from a fictional character's experience, feeling like Michael Landon wondering about the latest story unfolding around me while other days I look in the mirror and wonder about the person there, that my happiness is woven tightly to the peace and care I have the chance to do and give. Handing a stranger nutritious food or a new coat, entertaining a family who doesn't have a dime to give a tip with but has appreciation in waves larger and more beautiful than the oceans.

Who inspired you? When I come wandering through, will you know what I'm up to?

Unpredictability Lends A Hand in Great Storytelling

The anticipation rises as the storyteller describes the scene so well that it appears in your mind fresh with vibrant colors and sounds.

Suddenly, what you expected topples into the sea. You go from visualizing a castle of stone on a cliff above the sea to a card house exploding in a flurry of rustling motion. You become more attentive.

Two friends climbed a mountain forty years ago. They stood at the Rocky peak of Mount Audubon as the sun rose. They watched their shadows stretch across miles, reaching distant mountain tops faster than thought. They decided that when they had children they needed to come back and climb it again.

Time has a twisted sense of humor. Forty years is a short span of time to a tree, a mountain, a stream while it is half of a lifetime for us.

Two old men with the spirit of youth looked at each other and decided to heed wisdom. They went to the mountain to see what current conditions were. It was a festive scouting mission. Snow was piled taller than we were on either side of the road. The road was not open yet to cars even though it was almost June and it normally opens May first. We walked two miles to the campground. Snow drifts over ten feet tall were lazily claiming every campsite. Walking to the restrooms was a Herculean effort. I kept wondering how hard it would be to climb out if I fell into the snow. The two friends decided to see what weather would do, three weeks before the momentous hike was scheduled. Plane flights, coordination of housing, food, and many little details kept stress high.

If this was stressful it was a good thing we weren't in the Donner party. As a side note, auto correct tries to make Donner dinner.

Weeks passed. Snow stayed. Health conditions got a serious look. After forty years, stamina took a break. Bad knees in one and a tricky heart with breathing problems became a factor for the other. 

Although in dreams we climbed Audubon, in reality we camped at Red Feather Lakes. It was beautiful. We collected morels, found geocaches, lost a walkie talkie looking for a volcanic lake. We saw elk, moose, and I held a hummingbird in my hand that had gotten trapped in the cabin. I felt its heartbeat racing its breath. I set it free with a friend. We rode horses, did archery, went fishing, paddleboating, and had campfires with fanciful tales and l.e.d. poi.

It might not have been the vision the two youths had as they watched their shadows take on the proportions of Gods but it was  exciting and worth every minute.

In the end, we got our mountain fix by driving into Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove Trail Ridge Road and did short hikes. We had a snowball fight, watched marmots, moose, elk, and various rodents go about their daily life.  Our shadows might not have stretched across the sky but our spirits soared above the wispy clouds.

The best stories never go the way you think they will, and when you tell the story it changes with what you bring into focus. Someone else might have focused differently, their story could be of turmoil, soul searching, self worth, interpersonal bliss or conflict while you were laughing at the times the kids and I konked ourselves in the head with the poi or when I bounced off a tree and fell into a waist deep stream.

It depends on where you want to take the dreamer you are giving the story to. Give them the unexpected, the moment that made the day sublime.