Friday, July 22, 2016

When God Made Time......

 "When God made time He made plenty of it." I heard that so often growing up it took root between my ears. I don't like to rush. I don't like to race from A to B with blinders on, focused solely on getting there. I like to smell the flowers along the way, pause to admire a gnarled tree, gaze at the moon, spy on lizards and frogs, chase butterflies with my camera.

This relaxed attitude towards time has gotten me in plenty of trouble. My dad was a patient man. On Sundays he'd issue the five minute warning, calling it up the stairs to me. Then he'd give me a bonus of another five. But when I still did not appear, he'd slowly start driving up the hill so, when I did emerge, I'd have to run to catch up, hair and coat flying. Not the best way to prepare for church. The OC is not so patient. "Same day rules," he cautions when we're preparing to go anywhere. "But wait!" I say. "I just saw a lizard eating his lunch, I'll be there just as soon as I take a picture...." He sighs. I'll train him yet.

 I'm trying to be a more consistent blogger and to post at least once a week, but time got away from me last week. I'm thinking that, for this life at any rate, there might not be as much of it as there used to be!

While I was busy chewing the end of my pen, Riseoutofme surfaced after her three year sabbatical. We have an agreement. We'll each post once a week. And I'm sure the world will not screech to a halt if we're off by a day or two. She has informed me it's my turn,  no pressure of course.

It's been quiet around here. No shootings to report. If you want to read about that sort of horror you know where to find it, plenty of it, sad to say.

But not here. This is a horror free zone.

We watched an interesting film at our creativity workshop at the library recently --- Being In The World, a philosophical guide to a meaningful life.

We'd all like a lead a meaningful life, but I've always considered philosophy the business of intellectuals. Since I don't belong to that club, I was a tad apprehensive. Not being one for pondering the mysteries of the universe at great length, I expected it would be a struggle for the old brain cells. And I did have to pay close attention and stretch cerebral muscles that don't often get a workout. We didn't solve the riddle of who we are, or why we are here, but, I was delighted to find that the film was about real people, not just academics spouting incomprehensible theories.

I'm not about to climb on a butter box and expound on the nature of knowledge, and quite likely make a fool of myself, but, as we watched and listened to people who live fuller and more interesting lives as a result of their "mastery of physical, intellectual and creative skills," I wondered if most of us travel through life only half living.

There was the chef from a New Orleans restaurant of whom those who knew her said "she doesn't use recipes, she is the recipe!" My mother-in-law was like that - a smidgeon of this, a soupcon of that, more or less if you think it's needed. I used to follow her around the kitchen, frantically trying to measure her smidgeons and soupcons. It made going out to eat something of a let-down as nothing ever tasted as delicious as what she made at home.

 Then there was the Japanese master carpenter who reminded me of my brother who can "talk" to wood and make it "talk" back, both of them so in tune with their tools and materials. Just by the grain of the wood, its texture and its smell, they can tell how old it is, where it came from and, most importantly, if it will work for the project at hand. When they use a tool, the tool seems less a tool than an extension of their body.

Likewise with the musicians, their music a love affair between player and instrument. And once again, regret that, even though I grew up in Ireland, for heaven's sake, I never learned to play the harp, the flute or the fiddle. Something to do with my mother being tortured with piano lessons as a child......I have mastered one instrument though --- my voice. And while I'm not much in demand for singing engagements, I will happily talk to anyone.  Instead of applauding and encouraging me though, there are those who believe I talk too much. Imagine!

 I feel their pain, but not enough to be silent.

When we lived in Belgium a man at our church played the tin whistle. I would sit and listen, spellbound. You could not tell where the whistle ended and he began --- they were one. He was world class, even on such a humble instrument, and hidden away in a small Irish church in Belgium. Excited at the prospect of producing such heavenly sounds, I bought a tin whistle, but, alas, the only sounds I've ever coaxed from it are those of a crow being strangled.

Watching the musicians reminded me of a little six year old Japanese girl who was a first grade classmate of my oldest son. She had learned to play the piano by the Suzuki method, and at the school's end of year concert you could hear a pin drop as she played. She had the advantage of lessons, true, but she was six! There was something more at work - genius perhaps? I wonder how many Mozarts are wandering around out there, oblivious to the the talent buried within them? How many Fontyns? Hemmingways? Picassos? How many Flatleys? YoYo Mas?

We didn't watch the entire film. We paused frequently for discussion. One thing impressed me and it was that to be an artist, or master of any craft, after the study and the apprenticeship and the practice, practice, practice, the really great ones take an extra leap. My mother-in-law took that leap - off the pages of cookbooks, into an understanding of the nature of food. I'm a better cook now than early days but I still need those pages!

My brother was apprenticed for years to master cabinet makers. He soaked in everything they had to teach him and became an expert craftsman, but he had such a passion for his work, and was so electrically alive when absorbed in it that he too made that leap. People came to him from miles around, dragging their dilapidated antiques, and he restored them to their original splendor.

And so with writing. We're not all as disciplined or as talented as the Shakespeares and the Hemingways who write for hours, every single day, no excuses. They carry notebooks everywhere so when inspiration strikes they can capture it, cage it and take it back to their desk. They practice, practice, practice and, for every hundred pages they write, ninety nine go in the rubbish bin. Maybe it's that constant practice, that striving for perfection, that finally makes them soar above the rest of the scribbling world into the rarefied reaches of masters of their craft.

And way below in "the misty flats" us bloggers slog sluggishly along, hoping to, once in a while, evoke a smile of recognition at a shared thought or experience. Considering ourselves lucky if we can scratch out a few words at least once a week, give or take a day or two.

 We're not all destined for greatness but, as they say in Ireland when God made time He wasn't stingy. Everyone can live a more meaningful life. We all have the option to use the time we have, while we have it ( it might be gone tomorrow,) to pursue what we love, be it painting or writing or chasing butterflies, and become great at it. The trick is discipline, and practice, practice, practice. A trick I'm still struggling to learn..

It was a thought provoking film, great discussions, everyone went home happy

Even if we still don't know why we're here!

Friday, July 01, 2016

On Blogs and Frogs and Flirty Lizards

It dawned on me recently that it's been ten years this summer since I started blogging.

Ten years --- holy mackeral! One sixth of my life.

Sometimes the ideas fall over each other inside my head in their haste to get to the page. More often it looks like the Gobi desert in there and I wonder "Why am I doing this?" The answer is always the same. Desert or rain forest, I have found that if I just get all the gobbledygook down on paper, where I can see it, and slowly move the words around, they will eventually  make sense. The Little Blister and I were talking a few days ago, I mentioned this and, to my guarded delight (she's made similar noises before,) she is about to administer CPR to her blog. Since that ten year milestone has inspired me to continue into my dotage it would double the fun (or is it torture?) if she were scribbling alongside me. She started after me and, for a year or two, we egged each other on, but life got hectic and her blog was one of the casualties. So, fingers crossed!

There's a little lake in our neighborhood, a couple of gardens over. You can't see it from here but me and shank's mare can get there in three minutes. It's a great place to think, to stargaze, to read a good book, to play at being a photographer, and a stellar place to just sit and think.

 Molehills were turning into mountains one day recently so I came to the lake to sit awhile and clear my head.

Lizards flicked to right and left as I walked along the boardwalk. They have the place mostly to themselves so they get pretty territorial about it.

They move just far enough not to get stepped on, then sit and watch me, all the while flexing their muscles and doing pushups. But I'm bigger than you, Squirt! Unimpressed. I think this little guy was flirting with me. He made a great show of stretching out his colors for me to admire. "Go find a lady closer to your own age and size," I advise him.

The sun is low behind the trees, glowing golden between their trunks. Great banks of dark clouds, sitting along the horizon, are fading from grey to a taupe-ish pink but, don't close your eyes 'cause it changes every minute. There's whispering in the pines as a breeze wanders by.

Suddenly the air is rent with raucous honking.  A trio of sandhill cranes prepare to land in the rushes but, oh-oh, they've changed their minds. Warned off by honking from others already settled in those reeds, they climb again skywards as two more fly overhead, squawking loudly. Must be a crane convention going on.

Meanwhile, piled high in the west, more grey clouds shot through with pink, the color of a rose.  The reflection of an old, fuzzy jetstream zig-zags through the ruffled water,. Straight out from where I'm sitting at the end of the boardwalk is a raft of waterlilies, no flowers yet but beauty enough in the leaves alone.

What looks like an old brown leaf appears among the ripples, dark, almost black against the water's grey. As I watch, it moves, then ducks beneath the surface and I realize, that's no leaf, that's a turtle!

Belly down on the raft at the end of the boardwalk, I watch this tiny spider catching the last rays of the sun.....

Big blue dragonflies zoom about, intent on going --- where? What's on the to-do list of a dragonfly?Does her nest (if dragonflies have nests) get claustrophobic so she feels she must get out and come to the lake to clear her head? And while we're at it --- why is the sky blue? If I had such beautiful, irridescent wings I'd fly down into the rushes where the water is squishy and brown and spy on those frogs who make such a racket and sound as large as dogs but are, somehow, invisible.

Guess I should go home while I can still see the way. The silver jetstreams high above have turned pink now, the clouds in the west are an even darker grey, and, best of all, my head is clear. The cranes have resumed their inelegant song and the wind is whispering "go home! Go Home!"

I went back to the lake last night to take some photos. It was earlier, and sunnier, so no dramatic clouds but all the usual suspects were present. Those loud, invisible frogs were as noisy as ever and I wondered idly who decided that frogs say "ribbit"? Sounds more like chirping to me. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe those loud, invisible creatures are not frogs at all but birds that hide under water! The sandhill cranes were having another domestic dispute but the sun was sinking and they sounded halfhearted.

You never know what new drama Life has up her sleeve so it's comforting to come to the lake knowing it will be different every time but reliably and serenely the same.

Such an ordinary place but, when you sit and think and watch, you find ordinary places can be full of extraordinary peace and beauty.