Saturday, September 26, 2015

Where would you go: St Louis?

Six hours in St Louis to explore, where would you go? What would you do?

I pursued history again. The site of the 1904 World's Fair. I went to Forest Park. I started out geocaching while I waited for the museums and zoo to open. I walked around enjoying the flowers, trees and waterways. The zoo and museums have free admission. If I lived here, I would visit often and volunteer at one of the attractions.

I started with St Louis Zoo. I went into the penguin and puffin house, enjoying the proximity and character of both birds. Everyone was talking about the new polar bear. I stood at the glass outside, amused at how much other people wanted instant satisfaction- to see the bear right now. While they walked away, the bear came around the corner. I walked with it. The only thing between us was less than a foot of glass. We walked together the length of the window. The bear turned and wandered up on the rocks. I turned and wandered the zoo. I watched a tiger resting in a pool of water. A volunteer told me about popcorn plants and had me touch the leaves to smell the rich, buttery scent. Here, I'd just been looking at the golden flowers.
Time flew, the zoo was huge! I raced out and up the hill to the St Louis Art Museum. I strolled through admiring diverse artworks from abstracts to impressionists.
I sat on the rocks at the edge of picnic island. I admired the Great Basin. I even had time to appreciate exhibits at the Missouri History Museum on the 1904 World's Fair and on what St Louis was like in 1895.

My time was up too fast. The memories were worth it!

Taking Chances

The day was grey. The sky spit rain sporadically, just enough to goad me into turning on and off the windshield wipers. Vehicles in front, behind along the highway all filled with different lives, dreams and realities.
I saw a vehicle and camper along the side of the road, broken down. About a mile later, in the drizzle I saw the determined walk of a traveler carrying a backpack fighting a rolling suitcase. What if our roles were reversed? Normally, my car is too full to offer rides but I was driving a rental which happened to be a small van.
What if he was me?
I pulled over. I saw relief in his face.
He was only going fifty miles up the highway to his mother's house. I was going further. As I drove he told me about himself, what brought him there. He told me he'd been stuck there most of the day with a low charge on his phone. No one stopped to even ask if he needed a hand, a ride, anything.
He had just mentally told the universe "Haven't I always stopped to start batteries, change tires- yet I'm stuck walking fifty miles in the rain? See if I help anyone next time."
Then I pulled over. I offered a ride. A woman taught never to let a stranger in her car. He told me all this. He was dumbfounded. Why did I stop, he asked.
"If it was me, I would have hoped someone would do the same. I have three good friends who hitchhike frequently. All three are guys who are trustworthy, intelligent, caring, and giving. If I a was stranded I would hope someone would take a chance and help me out."
He spent part of the ride trying to figure out what to give me as a reward. I had to tell him repeatedly that it wasn't about getting anything- it was lending a hand where it's needed. I told him pay it forward.

We take chances every day. Are they always wise? Sometimes we pretend there isn't a choice. We give ourselves reasons to burrow into detached apathy.

Talk to strangers. Meet your neighbors. Learn about the realities other people live inside, when you do it often enough you find it easy to change your own. Grow. Learn the names of the plants that grow in your area, which ones heal you, harm you or which ones you can eat. Learn the history of your community. Learn about different cultures. Sing a song with the radio. Do something you have never done before.

I take risks. I accept the price of taking chances, for me it's a better investment than living like I'm made of marzipan cowering on a shelf.

Sometimes our weaknesses and flaws are our strengths, depending on whether you use them or let them rule you.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Contradictions and Crossroads

I still see the yellow line even though I'm not driving, it streches through my thoughts with caution signs. Caution: sharp when irrate, easily distracted, stubborn, self reliant, distant, restless.

My head fills with questions as I drive:

Why do hotels claim to have free WiFi when their signal is a suggestion of false hope, vanishing whenever you notice it at the edge of your screen?

Why are we so contradictory?

Why do we claim to care for each other, the environment, and what we eat- while devouring deep fried artificial meals with enhanced flavor to hide the lack of taste as we finish with a benediction about how some group meeting a specific description is actually the ultimate villain of all time necessitating destruction, prejudice and punishment?

Who made us the judge and jury?

Why do we have to fight over what words in old books should structure our lives and our self judgements? Why can't we focus on living and teach children to step away from judgement?

If your ancestors were persecuted and forced to follow a different religion, why are you so loyal to it? Stockholm syndrome?

Why are some people so determined to become enraged at the idea of taking the power in this country away from the 1%? If you aren't in the one percent is it because you think some day you could be?

These thoughts and a thousand others go through my head. If you are offended, why- you do not have to think them.

I'm not going door to door spreading my inner musings, nor am I set on harassing you by sharing shock style, offense evoking memes on your page or to your email. Incidentally, I have had other do those things to me then call me names via email because I don't argue with them.

  I don't post my beliefs to your wall or your email. I don't name call. If you've got to do that, you've got First world problems. You post for prayers, I politely use your preferred terminology to show support.

I've got memories of the dead. I've got memories of the living who are beneath you, around you and often avoided. The discontented, the imperfect, the different, people with stigmas who are actually incredible. Arrogance is cocaine, ego is alcohol and prayers are prescription pain killers. Denial is heroin.

I've got priorities. Food, shelter, friendship, love, my health, the health of those around me, the environment I'm in. No blame, no resentment just what can I do to enhance the world I'm in.  To meet needs and wants as best I can. Go without the frills of wants for several years and your mouth tastes like ashes when you walk into a consumer wallet sucking store full of everything you will never need. Selfies are fostering a new type of narcissism.

Why go to a beautiful place to stare at yourself?

No store sells love. No store offers contracts on self esteem or guilt reduction. No store carries discipline on its overstocked shelves between smartphones that think for you so you can live numb with the drugs and the sports and the petty tabloid dramas that titillate.

I can't go into a loan officer and say, what work can I trade you for that guy's health back?

Why isn't there an easily accessible way for students to go and get help when there are conflicts with colleges- why is it always on the student when in all other business deals there are easy to find advocacy and mediation organizations?

Why do we focus so much on the unimportant trivia and so little on the real priorities?

What are we going to do with all the excessive unnecessary smartphone cases? Are we going to use them as roofing tiles?

Even if you discount my musings:

The next time you start to stereotype in your head, stop.

The next time you have an intolerant reaction, pause and put yourself in their shoes.

It's not about being right. It's about being.

Why hate?

I put on different faces, different names so often that I've learned you can believe in anything for a while. You can love and adore it from cars to philosophies. You can put it down and walk away.

Take what you need. A friend emphasized finding the merits in all perspectives rather than focusing venom on the points to distort and feed hate.

I change every day. I'm the same but different, like everyone else I'm full of cobtradictions but when I chase down irrational beliefs and thoughts I create a crossroad. I move beyond them, leaving them with their toxic treasures and their thumbs sticking out.

The world is too incredible, life is too short. I'm still seeing the reflective paint guiding me forward but I'm not afraid to park and walk outside the lines. Are you?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Birthday Wish

We all have one, once a year, whether it is momentous or quiet. We all age, second by second and day by day. We grow into ourselves, our faces develop lines reflecting our character and our relationships reflect our hearts, while our paths demonstrates our spirit.

How do we become? Some like caterpillars do it without thought, effortlessly creating a cocoon then blossoming to a thousand smiles.

When I was young I was blessed with three Great grandmothers. They were Great. They taught me what love was and that it was not my fault that I was what I was. It was still hard. Sometimes I had to go home. I told stories to myself of what love and care really should be, I created excuses in my heart to dampen the wounds from those closest to me. Those stories got me through a childhood full of emotional traps, spiderwebs and sorrows. I lived a thousand lovely fantasies in my head.

I never chose to become something subtly cruel. I could have easily. It was modelled for me. I could have set emotions aside, they're awkward anyways to carry around inside. I could have become my father's daughter, finding happiness in trapping and killing animals.

Instead I found the person I wanted to be through looking outside my home. I looked in books, fairy tales that inspired because the hero faced darkness around and within but perservered to go beyond. No guilded edges, stories with sharp glass and death. Stephen King 's Cycle of the Werewolf, the Stand, Hans Christian Anderson, the Illiad. Light reading when you aren't yet ten. The heros resonated, their characters called to me. They sang "Who do you want to be?"

People ask "What do you want to do, what would make you happy?"

Odd question, I think. What makes me happy is making the choices to live, to care, and to be who I've become despite the shadows that will always roam in my head and the scars that will always pattern across my heart. I consider those scars like the patterns on the wings of butterflies. My spirit burns as an intense lightening, capable of light and destruction. Each of us has this struggle.

Today I stand at a Vista looking back. I've come a long distance. I am humbled and honored by the shapes of the hearts around me. I am blessed by thousands of glowing, growing hearts. My spirit dwells in a beautiful circle of love. If you could all see it the way I do: you would see yourselves as flowers, trees, mountains and golden plains, with a few volcanoes too. I am an ocean, tide going in and out. Just appreciating the view and honor of being in your presence.

Today I grow older by seconds and minutes as always, but in my thoughts today are every single one of you. You are the richest gifts. Today, my birthday wish is that you treat each other well, you treat yourselves with love- because I love seeing you radiant and nothing is finer than that.