Not in Kansas… er, Vermont, Anymore

Ironically, I write so much these days that I don’t have time to write. What I mean is, as a freelancer my work hours are taken up with writing for someone else, for money (which is fantastic–a dream come true!). Writing blog posts for fun have had to take a back-burner. But a few years ago I was writing for fun A LOT.

And apparently I was kind of funny too. I’ve been looking through some of my old posts and was pleasantly surprised to find (some of) them quite amusing. I’m just oh, so serious these days. So, it’s time to resurrect some of these old posts. I hope you get a giggle like I did.

(originally posted 11/16/08) I just have to say I’m not a huge fan of New Jersey. I’m sure it is a lovely state — in spots; it must be called the Garden State for a reason — but from where I’m sitting, it ain’t so grand.

The wind is howling around and right through my 8th floor hotel windows and the gray clouds are making the already gray panorama, well, grayer. All I see from this vantage point is asphalt and concrete; roads, parking lots, and boxes of concrete, with only panels of black windows to break up the concreteness. Cars and trains crawl through this tangled mass of blah and I have to wonder, why would anyone choose to live here?

Last night, after my husband’s 11 hour day in a conference and my day of writing (and re-writing and re-re-writing), we took our courage by the hand and ventured out. We knew there was a mall nearby, and after a couple days of over-priced and over-cooked hotel food our budget badly needed a food court. The map indicated we needed to turn left, right, then go straight and the mall would be right there.

Ha!

Turns out you can’t turn left in New Jersey, only right. We could see the mall just over there, but could we get to it? Heaven forbid! That big olNeiman and Marcus sign was shining bright – a beacon, a north star – but we two kings were lost in the desert. Round and round we go, no left turn, no left turn, NO LEFT FREAKIN‘ TURN. Eventually, (we ain’t too smart at this point, hunger had taken over our senses) we figured out that we had to turn right to go left. Well, duh! And, of course we’re cruising along in the left lane (as any intelligent being who wanted to turn left would be) and the Saturday night traffic, which is heavier than the worst Vermont rush hour, is preventing any intention of moving over in time to exit to the right.

By this point we are so far away from the mall, we give up and turn wherever we could and hope any dining establishment would be appear. As luck would have it, we had discovered another mall, a Macy’s and Nordstrom mall. But I am so frustrated and hungry by the time we get out of the car (an hour after left the hotel) that the normal little thrill I get from walking into a busy mall is replaced by fear and “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”-ness. I didn’t think I had become such a small town girl but the ugg-wearing, designer bag toting masses, the pre-Thanksgiving Santa, the knock-you-on-your-ass per-fumes, and the racket of the food court – oh, the noise! – was too much. I, me, who can’t pass up a clearance rack to save my life, was inhaling my philly cheese steak and racing for the nearest exit, my very un-designer bag flying behind.

Later as B and I were safely back in our dull hotel room, crying with laughter over an HBO comedian, I thanked my lucky stars that tomorrow we go home. Home, where you give directions according to the nearest barn, where you can turn left wherever you like, and the only concrete is the path leading to your own front door.

I drove through sadness

I drove through sadness today.

Tears from clouds and tears in ravaged river banks.

Tears, rips, and gashes. Gutted, graded and gored. Rutted, raked and ruined.

As I drove along Route 107 between Pittsfield and Bethel, Vermont for the first time since Tropical Storm Irene, I cried for my home state. Yes, I had seen the seemingly endless stream of pictures of devastation in the immediate aftermath, and I wept for Vermont then. But six months later, despite mind-blowing road and bridge repairs, to see the land so… so…wounded – it hurts.

It is raw. Scoured. The land torn open in gaping welts. And not even a new, white bandage of snow to cover its wounds. The pain of the land and its people exposed. Mud where trees should be, rocks where there should be grass. Houses once in a field teeter on the edge of cliffs. Or crumpled in a ditch. Farms grow nothing but silt and stones. Hillsides are mudslides. Trees are tangled masses of sticks. And the river…

The river runs through it all as if nothing is amiss. Barely restrained and rambling wildly in places, serenely in others, it is like a temperamental child, unaware and uncaring of the chaos it leaves in its wake.

And there, on his newly river-fronted property, a man standing alone, gazing over the water. What is he thinking, I wonder? Cursing God or Mother Nature? Thanking them for saving him and his home? Maybe he was feeling as small as I against the awesome power of nature, attacking so suddenly and so violently. But I believe he was crying for this land – I felt his sadness. It hangs in the air and descends with the cold rain.

—-

P.S. Strength comes in the wake of a storm: “I do matter.”

Trust the process, pt 5 (Everything is connected, 1)

credit: Yoly Mancilla

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Back in May I wrote in this post, Steppingstones to a new life, about how different paths of my life had suddenly come together at juncture, namely, grad school. I was shocked and gob-smacked how the Universe, Serendipity and Synchronicity got together presented me with this and amazing and timely opportunity.

But these three tricksters had more up their sleeves, much more! When I was least expecting it, they walloped me with my past, present and future in connections I could never have imagined. (I say “walloped” because the impact of all these connections left me reeling for a few days.)

Here are just a few of the “coincidences” that have occurred over the last couple of months:

Wow! #1. When I was first questioning my next step after getting my certification through The Center for Journal Therapy I wrote to my fellow instructors asking for advice. I was in a quandary about how I might combine my two distinct writing lives: therapeutic writing for others and my own creative pursuits. One woman in particular went out of her way to write back with her own situation and told me she had attended Goddard College in Vermont. Vermont! I don’t know if she knew I was here in these Green Mountains but that was strange surprise number one. Knock-me-over-with-a-feather-surprise number two was that the program they offered there was EXACTLY what I wanted: a self-designed degree, low-residency and offered a concentration in… ta-da! Transformative Language Arts – a combination of writing for health and change and creative writing.

So, a few months later I find myself sitting across from a faculty member at Goddard discussing my focus. He suggests to me that I browse some of the final projects in my line of study done by former students, one in particular. He proceeds to tell me, out of the hundreds of former students, the name of the very woman who had referred me to Goddard in the first place! She and I had never discussed what I was hoping to research and now here I was photocopying her bibliography and checking out some of the same books as she had done four years earlier.

Wow! #2: In high school I wrote a paper called “All Dressed Up and No Where to Go” about Victorian women’s whalebone “cages” and other restrictive vestments of the era. As an undergrad I wrote a thesis on the fashions of 14th century Europe and now they were symbolic of female oppression. I was just interested in historic costume, the women’s issues were just an interesting side-note to me at the time.

A few months ago I had what the experts call a “big” dream. An Intuitive and Jungian dream analysis-expert friend of mine interpreted it as my own battle with feelings of Female Oppression. I had never associated any of my own domestic frustrations with such a concept, but when she said it, it resonated. It rang through me like the Liberty Bell. I had grown up in a patriarchal world, in general, and a religious community, specifically, where women are undermined and ruled over, with first their father and then the husband as their “head” and salvation. Our bodies, minds, even prayers, were not our own. As Sue Monk Kidd says in Dance of the Dissident Daughter, I had “touched the wound of my feminine life.”

As I began delving into the writings that began my journey towards my own religious recovery I quickly realized that the Feminine would play a major role. My own Feminine Source had been denied me (and all other women of the last 5,000 years) when she was disowned by patriarchal society and religion. I long to set her free from her cage – as I had at age 16 without realizing it. And now one of my references for my studies is the very one I read back in a women’s history course almost 16 years ago. Even a chance conversation and a book recommendation while at Goddard, which I had dismissed as not really relating to my studies, suddenly became very relevant.

Wow! #3: I live in a blue-collar town. As a self-employed workshop facilitator and coach it is very difficult to make a living here. It is not an artistic town (although there are artists and writers burrowed away by the lakes and mountain-sides surrounding the town) and it is poor and, by Vermont’s extremely high standards, can be dangerous. I have lived and visited vibrant cities where there is a sense of community and respect for the town and the people in it. City-wide events are well-attended and fun. I desperately want this for my town but I’ve never really articulated what it is that makes a town different.

While noodling along in my journal at the Goddard residency I wrote, “Live-able communities are spiritually-based communities. Lots of nature, healthy options, community events, caring for self and each other.”  Without exactly knowing what I meant by the definition, I realized the difference is spiritual. Connection. A One-ness. There is personal empowerment within a Whole.

A few days after returning home from Goddard, one of my advising group sent me a link to a Public Radio International show, “To the Best of Our Knowledge” called, “Losing Religion.” One guest spoke of his discovery that the least religious societies have the lowest crime rates and vice versa. His visits to Denmark and Sweden, where the people wouldn’t even consider voting in a religious leader, presented him with beautiful, clean, safe, back-to-nature cities.

Again, the connections: I had been questioning What Makes a Community and thinking about it in my own tiny life when the subject suddenly presents itself to me on a much larger, societal scale. This is obviously just a tiny peek at a much larger question with many, many variables (which I could go into more here but you’ll have to wait for the book! These topics will be making up the bulk of my research while at grad school). But I questioned and the answers started to come. Given to me…

It’s those rascally rascals, Serendipity and Synchronicity!

Prompt: I experienced Serendipity and Synchronicity in my life when…

_______

 

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Booger-fingers will not break my spirit

Yesterday I attended the Women Business Owners Network (WBON) Winter Conference in Manchester, Vermont. Everyone of the speakers was fantastic and one woman noted she felt “drunk on the energy.” I can’t begin to share all the things discussed but I will tell you, it was powerful!

I believe in serendipity, in the power of positive thinking and envisioning your future. In this blog I have attempted to pass along my own experiences to serve as inspiration to anyone who is ready to receive it. I knew there were a few out there who also followed these principals and either saw them enacted in their own lives or were searching for it. I have also recently become aware that there is a move in the community conscious towards these things. The Secret and What the [Bleep] Do We Know are two examples of Quantum Physics and science of positive thinking being brought to, and beginning to be accepted, in the mainstream population. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind how thoughts effect our energy but I have personal evidence and a strange feeling like this is something I have always known but didn’t know I knew. That’s all I need.

But in general, in my little corner of the globe, I felt I was alone with my new “wierd” (hippie/new age) thoughts. Then over the last month some crazy things have happened:

1. Hubby left his job as an employee to become a private practitioner at a Holistic Wellness Center. He is not by training a holistic healer, he is just open to many options and has always been spiritual in nature. Daily he is surrounded by spiritually-minded people and he is happier than he has ever been.

2. Hubby starts coming home telling me things about positive thinking and I’m like: Hey! Preaching to the choir, bud! I’ve been telling you you can achieve this kind of understanding through journaling for, oh, I don’t know, ever!

3. Through this new job he is recruited to become a founder of a new venture: The Center for Spiritual Unfolding (much more to come on this – it’s gonna be good!). I am asked to join the board.

4. Hubby brings home The Secret on his iPod and I begin to listen to it (I had not read it). I’m listening to what I have discovered by myself but increased in power and possibility to almost the point of “it’s too good to be true!”

5. I have a meeting with a minister to arrange for the possibility of my journal workshop being held at the church. He asks about my religious background. No judgment. He understands. Our conversation is great and a relief. While assimilating our talk I begin to – for the very first time with clarity – see how the tattered strands of my religious beliefs could tie to my new belief system (eg. prayer is just positive thoughts being sent out into the Universe).

6. I attend the WBON conference: Making your Vision a Reality. Business women? Yes. Passionate? Yes. Spiritual? Yes! Every speaker spoke of the incredible power of envisioning and positive thinking. Vision boards, meditation, gratitude journals, affirmations, self love, self care, yes, even quantum physics and the power of positive energy in our personal and business lives. These women were talking MY language!! I drove home on a high!

My worlds have come together. First Hubby and I get on the same page, even working out of the same building, reading the same books, and journaling to make sense of it all. Then the realization that there are others just like me – passionate, creative people who are took a leap of faith to start their own businesses and who believe with every cell of their bodies that some higher power gave them wings with which to make the impossible possible.

So why the tears this morning? I think the immensity of my dreams and new-found knowledge suddenly felt squashed by the reality of my everyday life. My mind is spinning with possibility while my son is threatening his sister with a booger-finger and she in turn is squealing with a pitch that could shatter her plastic cup.  The calm and commaradie I experienced for eight wonderful hours yesterday was instantly washed away in a tsunami of missing boots and splattered oatmeal.

It’s a fragile animal, this soul-body we live in. I have a fabulous, inspiring, enlightening experience, I come home excited and so ready to get on with my life and then whap! I’m crying, angry, anxious, and ready to crawl under my bed covers for the rest of this roller-coaster ride called Life. But I recognize this feeling, I’ve had it before and thankfully I now know the nausea and the tears are just the big-toe in a cold sea. It hurts at first then it starts to feel good and soon you are floating, face to the sun, content – and fulfilled. (Shortly after I wrote that miserable post I quit my job and launched Wisdom, Within, Ink.)

I am choosing to believe the tears and anxiety was just fear having a final say before exiting my body…

Not in Kansas… er, Vermont, Anymore

I just have to say I’m not a huge fan of New Jersey. I’m sure it is a lovely state – in spots; it must be called the Garden State for a reason – but from where I’m sitting, it ain’t so grand.

The wind is howling around and right through my 8th floor hotel windows and the gray clouds are making the already gray panorama, well, grayer. All I see from this vantage point is asphalt and concrete; roads, parking lots, and boxes of concrete, with only panels of black windows to break up the concreteness. Cars and trains crawl through this tangled mass of blah and I have to wonder, why would anyone choose to live here?

Last night, after my husband’s 11 hour day in a conference and my day of writing (and re-writing and re-re-writing), we took our courage by the hand and ventured out. We knew there was a mall nearby, and after a couple days of over-priced and over-cooked hotel food our budget badly needed a food court. The map indicated we needed to turn left, right, then go straight and the mall would be right there.

Ha!

Turns out you can’t turn left in New Jersey, only right. We could see the mall just over there, but could we get to it? Heaven forbid! That big olNeiman and Marcus sign was shining bright – a beacon, a north star – but we two kings were lost in the desert. Round and round we go, no left turn, no left turn, NO LEFT FREAKIN‘ TURN. Eventually, (we ain’t too smart at this point, hunger had taken over our senses) we figured out that we had to turn right to go left. Well, duh! And, of course we’re cruising along in the left lane (as any intelligent being who wanted to turn left would be) and the Saturday night traffic, which is heavier than the worst Vermont rush hour, is preventing any intention of moving over in time to exit to the right.

By this point we are so far away from the mall, we give up and turn wherever we could and hope any dining establishment would be appear. As luck would have it, we had discovered another mall, a Macy’s and Nordstrom mall. But I am so frustrated and hungry by the time we get out of the car (an hour after left the hotel) that the normal little thrill I get from walking into a busy mall is replaced by fear and “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”-ness. I didn’t think I had become such a small town girl but the ugg-wearing, designer bag toting masses, the pre-Thanksgiving Santa, the knock-you-on-your-ass per-fumes, and the racket of the food court – oh, the noise! – was too much. I, me, who can’t pass up a clearance rack to save my life, was inhaling my philly cheese steak and racing for the nearest exit, my very un-designer bag flying behind.

Later as B and I were safely back in our dull hotel room, crying with laughter over an HBO comedian, I thanked my lucky stars that tomorrow we go home. Home, where you give directions according to the nearest barn, where you can turn left wherever you like, and the only concrete is the path leading to your own front door.

Serendipity on a Bike

This move from Vancouver to Vermont is not an easy prospect for ‘lil sis. We have been scouring the area and the internet trying to discover the potentials of her new home.

One thing you should know about my sister (let’s call her “C”) is that she’s painfully allergic to malls and other large (or small, actually) shopping areas. I have had the misfortune to be in her presence on the occasion of an allergic reaction. First, almost imperceptibly, her blood pressure rises as indicated by a slight coloration in her cheeks. Then the grumps start, which present as snapped answers to quite rational questions (i.e. which bag do you like better, the blue or the red?). These grumps slowly increase in intensity until the final phrase is reached which can be termed as The Explosion. At this point, when she says, “We have to leave, NOW!,” please do. Drop the blue (or red) bag and exit immediately in a calm and orderly fashion.

I mention this only to clarify that the move is not made difficult by the distinct decrease in shopping opportunities in the Upper Valley – far from it – but rather a fear of the lack of community, walkability and get-out-ability. I believe C and her husband would live on top of a mountain if it wasn’t for a preference for indoor plumbing (a preference with which I wholeheartedly concur) and a genuine need for local coffee-shop camaraderie (again, I agree).

If not on a mountain or drinking good coffee with friends, C’s joy is found on a bike. And this is where the serendipity comes in.

On my reconnaissance mission I had noticed a bike path. Not knowing if it was like the Rutland bike path which begins with great hope but ends 4.3 minutes later in a soggy ball field, we both did some research. C called some organization and discovered at some point in the conversation that her boss-to-be is an expert on said bike path and rides it the 6 or so miles every day to work. To quote C, “It made me very happy.”

So, once again, serendipity rides into to save the day (or at least the deflated mood).

This one’s corny

This is a moose. A very large moose. Moose live in Vermont. I live in Vermont. I have never seen a moose. I have followed moose tracks, but no moose. Bear also live in Vermont. I have also never seen a bear. I have smelt a bear and I have heard a bear, but I have never seen a bear.

There are other things in Vermont some people never see.

Some people have never seen (or smelt) the maple syrup boiling in the sugar house or tasted sugar-on-snow.

Some people have never climbed up a hill into an apple orchard where the trees are pregnant with fruit, or looked through the red juicy ornaments to the lake and the mountains beyond. Some people have never hiked up those mountains to look down on the orchard below.

Some people have never canoed on water so calm the hills look down on their mirror image.

Some people have never walked along a wooded path littered with fallen leaves bright as jewels.

Some people have never pulled up to a country store and had their gas pumped and wind-shield cleaned by a man who remembers them from elementary school.

Some people have never seen a road that wasn’t flanked by billboards or garbage.

Some people have never bought gas station coffee that was brewed in their own state or fresh homemade cookies baked just a few towns away.

Some people have never swam in a mountain stream cold enough to turn their lips blue in the middle of August.

I may have never seen a moose but I know they’re out there hiding under some (very big) trees. I also know the bear is – and he can stay hidden, thank you – but I have seen, smelt, felt, and tasted the other treasures of this state, and while they say, “Welcome to Vermont,” more importantly they say, “Welcome Home.”