Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fallen on Hard Times

“Fallen on hard times?” he asked. His blue-eyed look pierces, all the way in and through. It was less a question than a statement. Just that and no more for the two days we worked together. A few seconds of connection.

We had followed the jeep he was a passenger in down the long dirt driveway, allowing a little space to keep the dust from overwhelming us. I was drinking a cup of coffee and the light of dawn had not quite filled the sky. We parked our Geo just as they parked the old jeep with a red racing stripe. He spoke as we all emerged from our rigs.

I wear a woven wool cap on the cold mornings of late summer. Though I wonder if it was overkill today with temperatures of 55 degrees. When the noon time temp is 95, 55 feels quite chill. The cap comes off before too long. But not before I’ve spent an hour meditating on his words. “Fallen on hard times?”

“He” is man nearing 80 years old who is one of 8 people picking grapes on a two acre vineyard a few miles down the road from my ranch. ‘He’ is wearing a sweatshirt with a university logo and a knit hat over a shaved head. I like the look of him without hair. He is remarkably handsome. ‘He’ is someone I respect a great deal. A man who grew up in the wilderness before paved roads and electricity were common, he has real skills. I find him to be one of the most interesting, independent and outspoken individuals I have ever met.

And that is in a small village of individuals. Not a village of monoculturists, but a place where people still live (to an extent) outside of the dictates of a society largely formed by media ideas.

So when ‘He’ makes a comment to me it is worth an hour of meditation. “Fallen on hard times?” is his inquiry in to why I am picking grapes. A job that is commonly assumed to belong to Mexicans. Illegal immigrants. A woman who is ‘supposedly’ in the 90th percentile of wealth in the USA….why is she picking grapes? A very fair question. An interesting observation. An irritating comment. An insight into world view of labor economics and social standing.  Paradigm clashes?

To me, I am a woman helping a girlfriend, who is a wine maker and has a two acre vineyard. Picking her pinot noir grapes before the temperatures get too high. I live a few miles down the road and I love my friend after 16 years of being her neighbor. To ‘him’ (and this is what I imagine since I have not asked him why he picks) this is work that pays. It is work that he may not do if there were not money involved (and again I am making this up because of his comment). And if we lived in an area where there were day laborers available down near the hardware store then he might never find himself picking. But we happen to live in a remote and out of the everyday pocket of wilderness California. There are not Mexicans available for hire on the corner (there is no corner) near the hardware store (no store). So my friend asks her friends and a few trusted people she knows will show up to help. Some she pays and some pick her grapes as an experience and a gift.

But I pick and I think about how ‘we’ as a culture have defined work to such an extent that picking grapes is a ‘demeaning’ job that at least one person calls work that others will do if they have ‘fallen on hard times’. Because when I am picking the grapes it is impossible to ignore that it butt hard work. Literally. I am doing the equivalent of squats for three or four hours while holding my arms up and working both at the same time. I am sore for several days afterwards. I think of it as going to the ‘Boot Camp’ many pay good money to do. And I get to have this workout among friends out under a very blue sky, breathing clean air, in a place where wild turkeys roam by and big bucks saunter through. I might even see the bear that has been trying to eat the grapes every afternoon. It’s all a matter of perspective. The perfume of chardonnay, sticky sweetness running down my arms, the delight of popping a small cluster into my mouth as I continue to the cool dawn transforms to the warmth of a late summer morning....“He” speaks of this labor as work you only do if you have nothing better. And I (sadly) suspect that few people agree with me. Most people would see my picking grapes not as a luxury spa boot camp workout but as degrading labor for a woman who holds degrees in applied math and engineering.

When the sun breaks over the ridge line illuminating pine needles with a fine white light, a light I have tried to capture in fiber art for many years, I am not thinking about who labors doing what and where that places you in societal status, but rather I am thinking that all of us hold the possibility of expressing the grandeur of nature…that exquisite one of the natural beings…just because we exist, not because of what we do. I wonder if maybe time is best spent melting in to our ‘right’ (whatever this may be) relationship in this natural world.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



I have reached a place in my life where what lies ahead of me is unclear, not known, a path that exists mainly on a map in my imagination. There are places I hope to go, things I wish to do, people I look forward to meeting, ways I would like to contribute and all of it is new to me.

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” Joseph Campbell

Campbell’s words are the sign on the trail letting me know I am heading in the right direction. They are the life raft I sit inside as I float on foreign seas. But when I wake in the night and wonder how, when, if, why, and all those named and nameless fears about the life I aim to create are so ready and insistently demanding to be talked about right then and there….I make a choice. I choose to listen to these voices and then speak my gratitude for every thought that comes to my mind.

Trying to ignore those nagging bits and pieces only results in tossing and turning. Speaking my gratitude about each and every worry has allowed me to fall back asleep. I can’t really say what alchemical process occurs when I actively become thankful about very real and pressing concerns. But something magical does occur. Some would call it prayer, others might see it as acknowledging a watchful part of oneself. What I have experienced is that gratitude quite literally reveals the next step on the trail to lead me out of hard places. It’s not that real problems disappear. Gratitude lightens the load and lets me move on. It shifts the entire focus to a more expansive view. Balance comes in and the ability to notice truly good and beautiful things that are also in my life returns. Gratitude is the oar in the raft that I use to move in fruitful directions. And when daylight arrives I am more prepared to take action rather than spin my wheels.

My mother would often remind me to have ‘an attitude of gratitude’.  She knew gratitude as the machete necessary to hack through the thicket of weeds that sometimes engulf us. I am grateful to have witnessed my mother remake her life and move into directions she imagined and worked to successfully create. And I am grateful to have inherited her gratitude machete!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thoughts on Creativity

Whatever 'it' is, the notion that 'it' can be done either 'right' or 'wrong' is one of the largest obstacles to dissolve when creating. You can replace the idea of right and wrong with any number of words. Try: perfect, lovely, good, acceptable, something others appreciate, you name 'it'.

The space between what arises in the heart and mind as a vision you would like to create and the completion of this idea in physical form is #Creativity. "But how do I create?" I hear you ask.

First of all, I HEAR you. I have sat with the terror of beginning something new. I have sat with it for minutes, hours, days and then when it comes to the biggest dreams of my life I have sat with the terror of beginning for years and even decades. There. Phew. A true confession. Wow. First time I have told the truth on that. Such a relief.

I've spent a lot of time and energy delaying the start of the projects dearest to my heart by staying on the sidelines of life dwelling in the fear of doing it right.

I was sitting in a bank recently and overheard the manager telling someone about a quote from Thomas Edison.
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”  Light bulbs (he he) flashed brightly in my head. Yes! This is the view, exactly! Wherever, however, I internalized that my first time out I will get things the way I want, THIS is an underlying belief to transform.

My imagination is vivid and detailed. And when I am honest some of my visions are so large that taking them from the dream inside my head into the reality of the physical world is going to take time and work. It is that simple.

I want to acknowledge that moving in to NEW means that I (you, we) do not know how to do it yet. Or have not done it this way before. Creativity is fundamentally a life lived in new, unexplored, yet to be done (at least by you in the way you bring yourself to the work), an exploration, an exercise, an experiment....

You bring all the skill sets you have so far in life, and necessarily you will learn a lot. Learning means trying and possibly not finding the way that works, YET. I imagine a baby learning to walk. Stand up, plop down. Stand up, fall over. Stand up hold on. Stand up, balance. On and on goes this growth. Taking a step. Falling down and splitting a lip, bonking the head...all of this to say...try 'it'...go try 'it' NOW! You have at least one cheerleader, me, on the sidelines delighted you are IN the creativity game.

Friday, August 22, 2014

True Teachers

I've recently been in conversations around who qualifies as a 'True Teacher'. This inquiry comes out of a conversation in which I shared with a friend an area of my life where I am actively engaged in creating change. My dear friend holds a firm conviction that True Teachers are necessary to create lasting change in your life and that a True Teacher might be necessary for me to enact the changes I wish to make. I have to admit that I have small alarm bells that go off when I hear this. I also recognize what a relief it is to meet an other who has wisdom and experience and offers clarity when the murkiness of life obscures the path ahead. Someone who can say "This way!"

A smaller flock.
Last December I was standing outside on a mild day near the ocean and heard them before I saw them. Overhead, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of geese flying in one giant loose undulating V shape. A mesmerizing site. Group after group with one goose in the lead of smaller Vees...all aiming in a direction....made up this impressive migration. Watching over time it was clear that the lead goose changed. Research about migration yields interesting truths. The flock flies further when in formation. It takes a lot of strength for the first goose to lead the way. The leader moves from the front to the rear becoming a follower where drafting is easier when the lead goose has become tired. There is a constant rotation.

In those moments watching the geese I felt immediately how it is possible for this to be true for humans as well. Humanity is birthing a paradigm shift (sometimes called the great turning) one element of which is top down leadership moving to a style that supports a way for the wisdom of all to come forward. This is not a small topic.

Some of my meditation is around recognition of how everyone I encounter is a teacher who holds wisdom...if I will only search for the gems offered when they are not immediately obvious. And when it comes to those who call themselves True Teacher....well...then I am curious about what they are aiming for and if it is where I want to be heading. In any case it is my conviction that I really do know best  what is important to learn when I allow myself enough quiet to listen to my inner voice. Hearing from a wide range of others, (professional, gifted, wise, learned, kindly hearted) is quite helpful for perspective, and ultimately only I can choose the best course for myself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Playing the Field

The truth is that I want to PLAY with life. View the path ahead as a great game instead of having much consequence. Of course the playground has the possibility for a scraped knee or a broken bone. AND I want to PLAY! I live knowing all of life is #sacred play....just gotta get out there and learn the!