Every so often some friends who live in a quiet, secluded gated community in Santa Barbara offer to let me stay in their place for several days or even a week or so while they are usually off on some wonderful trip somewhere. They like someone to stay at their place to dog-sit, so I owe these times to George, the bulldog. George is quite a character and he adds a lot to my visits which I briefly describe later.
Eagerly I say "yes", pack up myself with at least one of my own dogs* and head up the coast, looking forward to a time of solitude and reflection. And of course I plan to write and maybe work on some other creative projects. And oft-times, I succeed.
I find when I get settled in the quiet serenity of the place is mesmerizing. There are scads of things to do and see in Santa Barbara, but I always find myself wanted to cocoon in semi-isolation from an world that is at times too much with me. So I walk with George, or rather George walks me, and then I walk again for long meandering walks all around the area with Miguelito.
Occasionally I turn on the radio or TV, but usually I just savor the nothingness of no sounds other than birds chirping, bunnies rustling in the flora, the crickets and frogs by night. When I eat, I eat in silence, savoring each bite of food as if for the first time. A glass of wine thrills my pallet. I am enchanted with my own company.
Self-indulgence is me! Well, quite frankly, I don't care. I deserve it. I forget how much I like being with me. Of course my little dog is here. This time its Miguelito. He seems to enjoy being the chosen one. And of course, there is George. George is a presence and will not be denied attention. But even George is companionable with occasional fits of grunts, guttural groans, lickings and more, but he indeed is glad I am there. All is well with the world tonight and I will sleep soundly as George snores in the corner and Mig nestles in the bed with me.
It's now Saturday morning, final full day in my "reclusive retreat". It has been good. As usual it feels like the time has flown by while the days themselves seemed long and pleasant. A minor "crisis" at home brought me back to the realities of life. But the crisis was resolved with the aid of friends and neighbors. (The neighbor behind me demolished a portion of the little house that has been a "wall" to my backyard for probably over 50 years. Could have been much worse. And it will work out fine as these things always do.) Anyway, I was able to return to some sort of my temporary normal here in isolation of sorts.
The good thing is I got away, had plenty of time for rest and reflection. It is funny how in just seven days a routine was established. It began to feel like home, even temporary as it is. I've noticed that happens whenever I am away for a while. Its as if my real life is a distant memory that I could just leave behind. But I know in my heart, that is not what I want to do. With some adjustments, things will just be fine. While I like being with myself, I also enjoy being with others. As they say, though, moderation in everything is the key. "Moderation in everything...including moderation," said Ben Franklin. Amen to that.
*My great neighbors take care of my other dog and my house! Thanks be to them!
When the Muse leaves town, or hides its light beneath the bushel, is there any point to chasing it? The Muse is very good at hiding. It does not like to be hounded. It cares not to be controlled. It refuses to be disciplined. So chasing it, even looking for it, does no good.
Sometimes the best thing to do when the Muse is absent is to wait. Silently. Quietly. Hands folded. Still beneath the spreading bodhi tree, in a hammock or comfortable chair. Other times it is best to take to the blank page on your screen or paper and just begin to write. Whatever comes, it is better than to chase the Muse. The Muse, its seems, is curious. It will come only when you are paying it no heed. And when it appears, listen. And create.
Its all you can do. Chasing you could trip and fall or get hit by a bus. Invite the Muse by engaging in its favorite activity: creation. It will come. Inspiration will appear only when you open yourself to it and let it in.
Start now...just as I have here. It seems to work...most of the time!
I have an invitation to meet for cocktails at the inn before dinner on the patio. The inn is the Mission Inn, a famous local landmark here in Riverside, southern California and beyond. It is now know for its annual Holiday Extravaganza and more. Serveral Presidents have stayed there including Teddy Roosevelt, George W Bush, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. The Nixons married there and the Reagans honeymooned there. For a full list, see: Historical Figures Who Stayed at the Inn Not only Presidents, but dignitaries and celebrities and more have visited the Inn over its 100 year plus history.
The Inn in the jewel in the center of Riverside's historic downtown. When you walk through the doors, it is almost as if you have been transported to Europe. I'm sure its founder, Frank Miller, and current owner, Duane Roberts intended just that. I always feel like I'm not in Riverside any more.
Anyway, one can always go to the Presidential Lounge if one cares to, but I seldom do. It feels like it is so sophisticated and lush that it should be saved for special occasions. Well, that's just me, I suppose. I love the Inn. And I treasure each time I have been there for drinks with friends, a wedding, a tour or a special event. It is not Marie Callendar's or Denny's to be sure.
So tonight I am having cocktails at the Inn with a dear friend from Santa Barbara. I have to pinch myself because it seems like I am in the vortex of a Venn diagram where two worlds overlap...even if just for an evening. I'm still a northwest Detroiter at heart, of sturdy, unassuming stock. But still, when I chance to pretend I am a "sophisticat" comes up, I submerge myself completely in the experience. There'll be stimulating conversation, ideas exchanged, and perhaps a fancy drink imbibed followed by a lovely dinner on the Las Capanas patio restaurant. "High falutin' ", my grandmother would say. Then she would tell me, "Enjoy! You only live once!"
You may have heard about how some folks have bad days because they got out of the wrong side of the bed. They're cranky, things don't go right, etc and so on. Well, what happens when you intentionally go to bed on the wrong side of the bed? I decided to find out.
Last night I was feeling in a bit of rut, so I decided to shake things up a bit. I got ready for bed as usual, but then as I was turning down the covers, I thought to myself, "How many times have I done this the same way in the same manner, night after night, year after year? Always on the left side, first lying on my back, then eventually shifting to my right side. For as long as I've had this mattress and probably the mattress before. Single people choose sides, and I apparently chose mine and stuck to it.
I flipped back up the covers, then went to the other side. I have a lamp and night table on either side. I imagine the light on the right side has many more hours left in it, than the left. I called the dogs and put them on the bed as usual, but confused them by getting in on the wrong (right) side. But dogs are flexible I guess. I got into bed and they quickly assumed the reverse of their usual positions. (Before you judge me for sleeping with dogs, don't. I have always and will always sleep with my boys. The bed would be so empty otherwise!)
Anyway, I felt strange. It was as if something was not right, but I persevered. I turned out the light, and surprisingly, fell fast asleep. In fact, I slept rather well. Soundly. Very weird I suppose, but changing sides, didn't change much for the night. And, surprise surprise, I awoke in the morning, still on the wrong (right) side.
But then came the getting out.
It's not true. Getting out of bed on the wrong side, is just like getting out of bed on the right side. Even when the right side had been the left for years and years and the wrong side is the right side. There were a few wrinkles in the day, but overall, I was not grumpy, did not have a bad day, and went about life as usual. I guess sleep in sleep and a bed is a bed and a side is to be chosen, and chosen again. It's up to the sleeper.
I suggest you try it. Would love to hear about your experience in this experiment. And maybe you won't have to turn the mattress so often if you use both sides!
Disclaimer: Any typos or grammatical errors in this blog are probably because I got up on the wrong side of the bed!
I went to church this morning and when I was getting out of the car in the parking lot, I realized I didn't have my phone. I checked my pockets. I went back to the car. I had left my smart phone at home. Egads! Someone, it seems, was messing with me. Maybe God? Maybe He wanted me to pay attention in church this morning? Perhaps...
Anyway, I found my usual spot left side, row three, next to my friend Bette. I took my place. I was a bit distracted at first. I hoped I had just left it at home, on the counter, where I last remembered seeing it. I felt myself shrug as I returned my attention to the service: the welcome, the opening hymn, the prayer, the anthem, communion. All those immediate experiences one supposedly goes to church to participate in. Yet all the while I was thinking about how this felt good. Freeing. Perhaps I should "untether" more often.
And of course I thought how this would make a good blog.
I realized how my attention span had suffered. My mind wandered. I found myself thinking about how it used to be. We couldn't take our landlines (we called them phones) everywhere. We would just have to wait to get home and check the message machine. And then I recalled the time when we didn't even have those! If we weren't there to answer the phone, well, they would just have to call back.
One odd thing that kept catching me off guard was finding myself trying to check my cell. I mean, frequently. And it wasn't there, in my pocket or on the pew next to me. Then each time I'd remind myself it was at home. I was still tethered, but only in my mind. It reminded my of how sometimes I go to call someone long deceased like my mother, my aunt, my grandmother and then realize that they won't answer. Similar, but not exactly the same I suppose. But disturbing all the same.
Long story short, I now realize just how much I have become a slave to my devices and social media. When I forget my phone, I feel set adrift. I might miss something. What if I want to show someone a picture? Set a date? Share a Facebook post? Ah, the good old days. Memories come lazily back as I remember what it was like to live in "real time". I think how we used to be ever present and not connected to unseen, and sometimes, unknown entities.
Coming untethered means I can be totally present...or at least have a better chance of really experiencing my life as it occurs. I can post about it on Instagram and Twitter later. Sometimes, cutting the cord...or at least leaving it in your car...makes life much more interesting.
There is nothing like an animal companion to be your muse. Miguelito, my "chorkie" (chihuahua/yorkie). Miguelito came into my life almost six years ago. He was found by the associate pastor of my church running down a busy street in downtown Riverside. You might say he was a gift of God! Anyway, he was about eight weeks old, too young to be on the streets. After a diligent search of the neighborhood, an owner was not located. I met him and it was instant love. And even though an attempt was made to place him (that failed), it was destiny. Miguelito came to live with me.
You might wonder why I named him Miguelito. Well, Miguelito means "little Michael" in Spanish and frankly, he reminded me of someone I know named Michael. Dark good looks, feisty personality and bundles of fun. The human Michael accepted this and is one of Mig's godparents.
Every animal companion I have ever had has had a unique personality. And they each seem to have come along with lessons and love, both which I surely needed. Miguelito has taught me about being independent, determined, mindful and most of all, happy. One bad habit he has is that he sometimes is apprehensive about being picked up and reluctant to come when called. Yet he seems to enjoy a good cuddle and if suddenly loose in an unfamiliar place, comes running when he hears my voice.
These are all the reasons I call Miguelito my muse. A muse inspires you. It is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. Mig inspires me. And I truly think he wants me to be creative....as long as he can go along. We can have many muses in our lifetime. But as this blog proves, Miguelito is one of mine
Click here for more info about the chorkie.
(There is a brief ad before the actual video from Animal Planet)
This morning I was unloading the dishwasher when it struck me how as I do, I think about how each of the items came into my life. Each mug, dish, utensil has a memory attached to it of some kind. It actually becomes a meditative process for me than makes an insignificant task more meaningful.
There is the coffee mug someone brought to me years ago from Starbuck's in Detroit because we were both from Detroit and they knew I would like it. There's the commemorative mug from the 1994 Barbra Streisand concert in Anaheim with the weird profile with just her eyes and nose. I love the green cat mug even though I really don't have any recollection of how it came to me. For this alone, I love it. There are is the stainless steel flatware from my grandmother, the mixing bowls from my aunt, the everyday cooking utensils I don't even recall buying.
I pull out the three remaining drinking glasses with peach etching that belonged to my aunt and mourn the loss of their three companions. that I broke one by one over the last twenty years. I should replace them. Complete sets are more useful, but these will do. Plus they are augmented by the sturdy bar glasses I have gathered, two as gifts, the others at estate sales or from Cost Plus.
Mixing bowls from my mom or aunt or a gift from a dear friend now gone. Knives of every variety. Bakeware in various shapes that are only occasionally used. Storage dishes with easily secured lids. These are from Costco I believe. Nothing with great memories, but always appreciated from their service in storing leftovers and such.
Yes, for me, unloading the dishwasher is a meditative process. Wistful thoughts about times gone by people either in my life or long gone. Call me sentimental, but that's probably why a lot of this stuff hasn't ended up at an estate sale or Goodwill. I just look at them and feel a spark of joy or comfort.
Ever come upon someone talking to themself? Perhaps its on the street and then you realize they are on an unseen smart phone. Or perhaps they are really talking to themself in a fit of pique over getting a ticket or tripping over a box someone left in their path. Then there are those times when you encounter someone who is having a full blown conversation with either themself or some invisible person. Finally, sometimes you'll find someone talking to themself AND answering themself. That's when you discretely cross the street or go down another aisle.
Scary as it may seem, talking to oneself is not always bad, or crazy, or all that undesirable. This morning I was writing in my morning pages. I tried something new. I asked myself questions and then proceeded to answer them. Some questions began with why, as in "why do you think it is that you procrastinate so much?" Others began with how, as in "how does that make you feel?" Still others started with when, where and who. Yep, I used the five journalistic imperatives to get to the bottom of the story. Amazingly, it worked.
I won't go into details here about what realizations I came to. That's not the point. The point is by asking myself these questions I was able to reach a point of some clarity about the current state of my life. It was interesting to come to terms (again) with how I mess myself up and tend to keep myself from pursuing my creative ambitions. Truth is, I wasn't asking the right questions.
Who, what, where, when and why are the questions we need to ask ourselves every so often just to see where we are at. The five w's of answered by good journalism and by anyone wanting to get to the nitty gritty of the story...in this case, the story we tell ourselves. And there you have it.
Insight comes from looking inward. Asking the right questions help. Answering them honestly and uncensored is the key. Its amazing what we can see when we lift the veil we put over that which we are not ready or able to see.
Resistance is a constant for me. It impedes my progress toward being and doing those things I tell myself (and anyone who asks) that I want to do before launching into a litany of reasons and excuses why I cannot do them...just not now.
In an attempt to move through this persistent resistant state, I'm participating in a five day challenge online workshop about doing Morning Pages. Morning Pages are "three pages of long-hand stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning," as described by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way .
Class two is about, you guessed it, resistance. At resistance, I am a pro. As the title infers, I even have a way of resisting resistance that resists all logic or reason. What it is, though, is illogical. If you really want to do something, well, you will find a way to do it. That is why I write this today. I need to stop resisting the "call of the muse" and just do it. For that I need your help. At least it would be nice to have some support.
Many folks are very supportive. They are kind and encouraging and for that, I am appreciative. But I need just a bit more. I need to be called out now and then. You know, call me on BS as they say these days. Don't let me BS you or myself. Scary. My stomach queases up just saying that because you might just do it!
Resistance is a tough nut to crack. But that does not give license to not break through it. If I don't at the end of the day, all I will have is my reasons and excuses and those won't keep the cockles of my heart warm in the rest home.
So there, I've said it. And, yes, I have said it before. But this time...this time I mean it. To resist is futile. Onward and upward. Here goes....
Being the final few weeks of winter as it is now, and with the entire spring in the offing, it is not too early to implement some summer rules. Costco and Walmart do it, why not me? It's about the picture below that popped up on my Facebook feed listing Summer Rules.
The post reminded me of how when I was a pre-teen and my mother was seriously ill, my grandmother posted our duties on the kitchen wall. Everyday we had to review them and check them off as we completed them. Those were chores like cleaning our room washing dishes, taking a bath and so on. So I thought, wow, I should post these rules...these "to-do's" and review them each day to make sure I had down as suggested on them.
The list complete with checkboxes is called "Summer Rules", but it could just as well be called "Retirement Rules" or "Better Living Rules" or whatever. The point is, they address areas of our lives that we sometime neglect. And 20 minutes for each is not too lofty a goal. Of course, the sublist entitled "Have You:" is supposed to be common practice, but I imagine we all have at least skipped breakfast now and then. LOL
Anyway, I printed this out and am posting it on my fridge this morning. Nice reminders if nothing else. I can't wait to do each...and the challenge will be to do them every day. I may not always be successful, but I think it will be beneficial to my mental and spiritual health to try.
As seen at Children's Ministry Deals on Facebook