Did you know that the habitable portion of the solar system where we live is actually called the Goldilocks Zone? Its not too hot, not too cold, but just right to support life forms like us. That started me to thinking, musing and well, you know.
The month of June in Southern California has run from excessive heat warnings to you better take a warm sweater with you kind of weather...and back again. There were days I thought we would never leave winter/spring behind and other days I friend proverbial eggs on the sidewalk. All in all, to be a bit prosaic, it ran hot, it ran cold, but rarely was it "just right." Where the heck is Goldilocks when you need her?
Tonight it occurred to me as I was summing up my experience of the month of June, the weather definitely reflected my personal rolly-coaster ride as far as what keeps me busy and interested. I worked like a dog at a couple estate sales with my friends at Orange Empire Estate Sales and Liquidations Then I was into the zone with my writing a few times my Inlandia workshop and the June summer salon I wrote about last time. I did my morning pages religiously, and worked on my personal memoirs and essays about my life and about my career (two separate projects). Not much in the way of photography this month, but I did do a lot for OEESL. So I guess that would be luke warm, but not just right ala Goldilocks.
All in all, it seems to even out. I think we are all a bit like Goldilocks in that if we are smart, if we have an adventurous soul, and if we are not afraid to try new things, we sooner or later find those things that are just right. And if we are very smart, we enjoy those things, savor them and then we go out again to try what might be too hot or too cold, but in the end, find what is just right for us.
And that's where I'm at right now.
Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure,
only death can stop it.
Sometimes I come to my laptop, sit down, and don't have a clue as to what I want to write. The other day I was feeling inspired...it was yesterday in fact. I had been to an amazing writing salon with a young MFA graduate from UCR with whom I had taken a memoir writing class early in the spring. She is moving back east, but wanted to offer some summer salons for her students before she left. I was very excited. Just that morning, I had written a long list of blog topics I could write about...maybe even turn into personal essays for, are you sitting, publication.
For some reason I cannot recall now, I had to miss the first salon, so I was totally jazzed about attending this one. I rearranged some plans to go to a concert and even wrote something to be critiqued. As the appointed time grew near, it was not certain we would even meet. Only two of the students from the workshop were able to come. But Minda, (Minda Honey), decided we would go forward. We decided to meet at the Mission Inn's Presidential Lounge, just the three of us. And so there we were, the three of us, two of us with Margaritas and one with white wine.
Without going into too much detail. I have to say it was one of those experiences when I felt like, well, a writer. We talked content and message, word choice and tone, pace and flow. We sipped our drinks over the two hours and I felt like somewhere nearby Hemingway, Lawrence, Eliot and Fitzgerald might have been watching. Well, it my fantasies, this is what I always thought would be a part of my life as a writer.
Well, its not the Left Bank of Paris and I'm probably never gonna be a Hemingway. Not sure I want to be, at least as far as his lifestyle is concerned. I do want to write, though. And it is happening. I am a writer. Even when I am not writing, I am thinking about it. That is one of the true signs of being a writer. I am finding my own voice, in fact, I think I have found it pretty much. I imagine someone might even guess it was a piece I wrote even if my name isn't attached. Well, it could happen...
Anyway, that is where I am at. I am writing a blog about it. And that's what writers do. They write.
My father loved cherry pie. At least I think he loved cherry pie. He must have because every time I think of cherry pie and especially when I have a piece of cherry pie, I think of him. I hear his "Mmmm" in my ears as if he were there enjoying it. My mother made cherry pies now and then. She wasn't a regular at the baking thing, but I do remember helping with the lattice top crust, laying the strips carefully across, weaving the second layer in and out. It was at art. And then we'd pop it in the oven for an hour more or less. It would cool on the kitchen window sill for a while, until after dinner, when we would all have a piece with a bit of vanilla ice cream on top.
This memory comes to mind whenever I hear the song, "Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy..." At least I think it is a memory and not something my mind has created out of the bits and pieces of a rather fractured family life I had growing up.
Fact is I don't know a lot about my father's likes and dislikes. I know he was a good man who suffered from alcoholism. Because of that, he was not home a lot. Yet he went to work every day until he became so disabled he could not walk to the corner to catch the bus to go to downtown Detroit where he worked in a factory assembling shipping crates. Even then, he got himself a job with his bar buddy, Elmer, on the back of a garbage truck picking up garbage. He knew he needed to work to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of my mother, brother and I. We never went hungry for the necessities. What we lacked was the necessity of knowing my father.
I know he like to drive, and drive fast. He wrecked every car he ever owned. His younger brother confirmed this for me during one of the family vacations in the hills of Pennsylvania where we went most summers for two weeks. Even then, he didn't talk much so I never got a sense of who he really was. In those days many dads thought they needed to be silent, strong and aloof. He had a fiery temper, (his siblings did too), and that I remember well with the drunken rages and sober rants. I remember one time he was trying to do his taxes and he called the IRS to ask a question. The person on the other end of the phone either couldn't answer the question or didn't answer it. To this day I remember the crash of the received onto its cradle so hard it cracked in two.
Funny thing, I loved my dad. Even with all his fits and starts at doing anything, and never finishing much of anything, he was still my dad. And there were rare occasions he actually told me he was proud of me, like when I learned to type. He thought that was quite a skill to have. He barely made it through 8th grade...if that far. And when I graduated from college, well, he wanted to see me so badly he put on his three piece suit he had worn at my mother's funeral, boarded the train in Detroit and rode all the way to San Bernardino. When he got off and I saw him in that suit, beaming ear to ear, I knew it really didn't matter if I knew what kind of pie he liked. Maybe he had changed into the suit just before the end of the three day trip, (I hope so), but in my mind he just wanted to be sure he looked his best.
My dad died in 1991. Twenty-five years ago. We never really talked much, just brief conversations on the phone now and then. Once in a while he's say he loved me. He's say he knew I was a "good boy." I always wondered then and still wonder now how much he knew about me. But I guess that is how it is between fathers and sons sometimes. The most important thing is to know the bond is there no matter what, love is behind it and cherry pie tastes better when it reminds you of your dad.
There has been so much talk since the terrible tragedies in Paris, San Bernardino, Orlando. Throw in Sandy Hook, Tuscon, Aurora...and all the many other places that became synonymous with hate and violence run amok. Everyone is talking. But who the heck is doing anything?
Sometimes we just need to stop it all. We need to go inward. We need to listen to that still, small voice in all of us. We need to do this alone. We need to do this with our friends and our families. We need to do this at meetings, at nightclubs, at schools, at shopping malls. We need to just stop the cacophony of yammering and just listen. We need as I said already, to listen to that still small voice within each of us. Then we need to listen to the voices of those around us. Listen. That's what we need to do, what we must to do, the only thing we can to that will stop the madness.
When we are talking we cannot hear what is being said. We cannot hear the heartbeat of our surroundings. We miss the signs of what is bubbling up all around us from the murmuring springs of dissension, to the erupting volcanos of suppressed rage. It's all there plain as day. We just need to be silent a moment to hear it. The answer is within us all.
I remember hearing many years ago that you cannot legislate morality. I don't hear that said much any more. Morality is learned. We teach it to each other. Parents hopefully teach it to their children. Leaders share it with followers who respect them. Once the proverbial horse is out of the barn, though, it is difficult to bring it back. Training begins from the time the foal emerges from the mother's womb. The mother teaches it. The horse-trainer teaches it. The other horses bring the young one into line. It is not unlike a human. We all must be accountable to help the generations know that they, too, are accountable.
Practice silence. Turn off the sound of your TV. You can soon hear much more by watching the faces and gestures and postures of those speaking. You can even do this with those around you as you listen and observe in silence.
We can change the world one step at a time. That step begins with ourselves. Once we hear our inner voices, we can learn to come from a more authentic place. In being authentic, true to ourselves and others, we can truly make this world a better place, one thought at a time.
A while back my friend Bette suggested I write something about a phrase she had heard that day: hair-trigger anxiety. I Googled to find a definition and found this:
A heightened state of arousal, stress or sensitivity to certain sensory stimuli. It can cause intense emotional reactions, anxiety and impulsive patterns of behaviour. It makes us feel alert to hidden dangers - a primal sense of threat, a feeling of treading around on eggshells without knowing why. Or the belief that you need to remain alert in case an impending disaster. At other times it may be a sense of uncertainty that cannot be tolerated. Often, however, the source of the threat cannot be identified and your reaction to it feels disproportionate to the reality. It is as if you have acquired a feeling of unease that cannot be shrugged off, triggering alarm bells for no apparent reason – causing an atmosphere of tension. This is usually played out with a sense of urgency and causes compulsive behaviours that seek to avoid or escape the source of the perceived threat.
It occurred to me when I read this definition that this in something many people around the world are living with most of the time. The threat of Isis attack, the mass shootings that seem to be happening every other day, traffic jams and crazy drivers everywhere. These are just a few of the things that can set off some hair-trigger anxiety of any one of us at any given time. And it probably manifests in different ways in different people, even animals.
So I wondered how we can cope with this heretofore unknown (at least to me) malady. Breathing helps. Reminding ourselves that the world is evolving and getting more and more crowded. Everyone is feeling the stress of trying to maintain a sense of self and of territory. I remember many years ago in one of my college psycho classes we were shown a film (not video) which talked about an experiment that was done with rats as follows:
Some rats were put into an enclosed space just large enough for an optimal population. The rats went about their little rat lives, foraging for food (which was supplied by the scientists, eating, mating and sleeping...the usual stuff even humans do in a normal community. As time went on, even as the rats reproduced themselves, new rats were introduced. Gradually the population began to stretch the resources of the community. Overcrowding started straining the formerly peaceful ways of the rats. Fights broke out. Murders occurred. Cannibalism even happened. It wasn't pretty.
That little film has stayed with me in the back of my mind all these years.
What I try to remember is that it is important to not let the madness of the world impinge upon me to greatly. I need to detach and let the world go by. I stopped driving so fast, trying to get ahead. I found that I usually arrived at my destination about the same time as usual, or at least about the same time as others on the freeway who had jockeyed to be ahead of me did. It reminded me of the old proverb about the tortoise and the hare. I'm more of a tortoise these days.
So whenever I feel like the trigger on my anxiety hairs might be in danger of going off, I stop, think, and then move along...or not. Whatever is appropriate. The anxiety subsides and everything turns to lollipops and rainbows. Well, maybe not quite, but it does feel better, more relaxed and I do not engage in the madness around me.
Maybe we could start of HTA 12 Step Support Program? Support is a good things. At least, we should talk to someone. Human contact, which seems to be getting more and more less these days, is one thing being human is about. Aha! And then maybe we can enjoy a lollipop while watching for rainbows again.
Traditionally a moment of silence is observed whenever there is a tragedy. It can be the death of a member of small work group or a major tragedy such as 9/11 or the most recent one in Orlando. At one time they served a purpose. Now they only seem to emphasize the lack of action taken against the now routine random acts of violence plaguing our world. In the news this morning, it was reported how the US Congress erupted in chaos during the usual moment of silence observed in honor of the victims in Orlando. Reportedly it was mostly democrats who were crying, “Enough. Silence is not the answer.”
There is a time for prayer. And this is indeed one of them. But I learned long ago that God expects more than just prayer. He expects us to act, to be his feet, his arms, his eyes, his heart in this broken world. Pray for the strength to stand up to hate, to attack, to the storm. Whatever version of God you subscribe to, it is what God needs from you. And even if you do not believe in a God, you are still a member of the human family and it is what families do for each other. Even when some members of the family do evil, atrocious things.
I was talking with a friend the other night after Orlando happened. He said something about how violent the world has become and how we seem to be getting so calloused to it. For some reason I thought about the 1967 Detroit riots. I was still living in Detroit during that terrible summer. I remember at 16 the fear I felt even though I was fairly safe in my northwest suburban home. I remember watching the news and hugging my mother. The curfew was throughout the metropolitan area. There was a strange silence. I remember going to the end of our drive and looking toward Grand River Ave, one of the main boulevards coming our of downtown. For a moment, I thought I heard the rioters. I didn’t, but it did seem like the end of the world.
Each time there is one of these horrific acts or events, it seems like the end is at hand. I told my friend about the above. After 50 years, it is still a violent, broken world in many ways. Sadly, it is nothing new. Yet there is so much good, so many good people. Thinking about that alone, I remember the words of Edmond Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Silence sometimes is golden. Silence sometimes gives us time to find our inner voice, our core of strength. But silence is not golden when it is used to simply make us feel better and move on.
After spending many hours today battling LA freeway traffic, I am so very tired. Why would anyone do it? I can't imagine why anyone gets into a motor vehicle and heads into Los Angeles just for the heck of it. My destination today was UCLA, Westwood, the Medical Center to be exact. Driving someone in for a medical appointment. Good deed. Nice guy me. Yeah, right. It took two hours to drive in. Four hours to drive home. Bumper to bumper. Madness. Who would do this? Who?
Well, apparently thousands upon thousands of people because they were all out there today. Yep, from tiny smart cars and Mini Coopers to sporty sedans to SUVs to delivery truck and semi's. All of them were out there, jockeying for position. And of course it was a June afternoon. Another graduation day at UCLA. Preparing for a movie premiere, Now You See Me 2, opening tonight.
And on the freeway itself, the beginnings of the mad rush to get out of town after another work week. Heading to the dessert, the sea, Palm Springs, the Colorado River, the mountains or, believe it or not, home. Everyone, all at once!
Oh well, I survived. Aching butt, spasming quads, eyelids propped open with toothpicks. It seems to me someone should have known about this eventuality. But, no. Everyone wanted their own personal mode of transportation. And now here it is: autogeddon. LOL
I guess it just shows to go you what happens when we put our own selfish needs and desires first before the good of all. There's a lesson in all this. I just hope it isn't too late to learn it.
Sometimes it is so random the memories that pop up.
Tomorrow it will be ninety-eight years since my maternal grandparents married. My grandfather died before I was born. My grandmother passed in '83, shortly before I bought the house I live in now. I often wonder what she would have thought of it. I'm sure the way I moved around while in college she probably never believed I would put down roots. Actually, until I bought the house, I can almost guarantee she thought I would move back to Michigan someday. The purchase of this house changed both our expectations and hopes.
My grandmother was very good at helping me know my grandfather. He was a good man, good to his family. He had a minor cleft palet and died of cancer. I remember my grandmother telling me how he would lie in his sick bed at their cottage at the lake and listen to the children playing and the birds singing and cars going by outside. "I hate just lying here," he would say to her.
He died in 1946. Seventy years ago. My grandmother remarried in '48 and moved back to the suburbs of Detroit. When I came along, I'm sure I fast became her favorite. At least I was the closest. Her son lived not too far away but married into the Jevovah Witness faith and between that and his wife, a wedge was driven between her and his children. She lavished her attention on me.
I guess I am thinking about this right now because of the anniversary tomorrow. As I wrote the other day, that is what anniversaries are about. They help us to remember the important events of our lives. Happy anniversary, Norm and Lucy. You remind me that love always lives on.
No matter what you say about all the folks who threw their hats in the ring this primary season as candidates for President of the United States, you have to say they all started with high hopes and great expectations. Sure, many, probably most of the 22 candidates went down in flames. At times it felt like a reality show with each primary held, more candidates being voted off the island. I suppose that is what has made this election cycle so dang fascinating.
I found this list of the campaign slogans for each candidate at www.taglineguru.com which presents the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign Slogans (ranked highest to lowest) as follows. The commentary is mine.
So there you have it. My two cents for now. I'm done ranting about politics for now. But really, we do need to pay close attention to what is said beyond the slogans. Shake the hand, look into the eyes. And read between the lines. The truth is there for all of us to see.