2013 Journal

I am committed to trusting that, when it is time, a new sort-of-monthly or six-weekly Journal "blog" will emerge and be posted here sharing tales of how these earlier learnings are continuing to shape the ways I deal with whatever unfolds in my everyday life.  One of the Rememberings and Celebrations Card will be posted with it.

I stop to sit down, reflect and write only when something deep inside calls me to it. The call is completely unpredictable, though usually it comes late at night and near the end or middle of the month - unless, sigh, it doesn’t because it’s not yet time to step out of the flow and look at it.


April into May


For all of March and early April it felt as though I were living in a time-lapse movie capturing the moment-by-moment emergence of spring’s new growth. Out the windows of my tent as I woke each morning, lying in my snug bed doing my daily Reiki, I watched as new leaf buds first appeared on the apple, persimmon and nameless trees, then fattened and soon unfurled leaves that seemed to grow right before my eyes. Each day more green was erupting all around the meadow and in the containers on my patio. Then, the roses and the apple trees grew fat buds that in just days opened into fragrant flowers. There are red, yellow, deep pink, lavender and mauve roses opening all through the garden.
Out the window at my desk, the bare wisteria branches first sprouted little cocoons that soon burst into clusters of purple blossoms, these shortly joined by emerging delicate leafy flounces. Purple and white gremlin-faced pansies proliferated at the base of each of the rapidly leafing-out rose bushes and in one soon-overflowing rectangular pot. In another container at the side of the pansies, a crop of pink and rose striped mini-petunias seemed to riot while nearby a lovely plant I’d chosen for its beautiful leaves surprised me with delicate red flowers on graceful stalks. Newly planted nasturtiums grew as if on steroids, spilling over each of the pots to which I’d added them (to keep other baby-sized returning perennials company).
The climbing rose bush outside my desk window covered itself with tiny yellow flowers as the Japanese red maple by its side leafed out in its annual elegance. Mint and oregano flourished, overflowing their containers. The split leaf philodendrons, both the small one near the climbing rosebush and the huge one (that I call my beanstalk) that lives at the side of the hot tub, resurrected themselves from the decimation of this winter’s frosts. On its once naked branches, the enormous (also frost damaged) jade plant cheerily sprouted new leaves that seemed to grow hour by hour.
The mustard, arugula, bok choi and both red and green kales grew the biggest leaves ever (until this past week when they all went to flower and needed to be pulled out and have their last leaves refrigerated rather than picked daily). Since I can’t find new starts for any of these favorite greens at the nurseries just now, I’m about to plant from seed and see how they do: a first in my gardening adventures. The new strawberry plants (Sequoias) are producing abundant berries though, regrettably, they’re not all that sweet, sigh! This year’s plantings of cherry and beefsteak tomatoes are covered in blossoms and even some tiny baby green tomatoes.
In these past seven weeks since last I wrote, the dwarf Meyer lemon, Mineola tangelo, blood orange and ruby grapefruit at the meadow’s near edge joined with a Valencia orange just over the fence and my other neighbor’s tangelo and navel orange trees in producing a bounty of blossoms. For the first time in my eight years here, my world has been flooded with the intoxicating citrus blossom perfume that before now had only been a part of Ojai’s East End orange groves that l left behind when I moved to this part of town. Every evening, just as the sun went down, it would seem as though someone turned the volume up on the luscious aroma. It was heavenly! Alas, that season is past and infant citrus grow where the flowers had been.
The meadow is full of crickets again and the neighbor’s pond is hosting a community of very vocal frogs. The mockingbird that comes and goes from the meadow is back tickling me with its always amusing medleys (absent this year its imitation of my in-the-tent alarm clock!). After having only a few random and desultory hummingbirds feeding at my feeders through the winter months, on April twentieth, the hordes returned. The magic of their chittering, buzzing, zooming and utterly fearless presence makes sitting in the garden even more delightful than ever. That’s the upside. The downside such as it is, is that instead of five partly filled feeders needing to be changed every ten days, I’m back to filling eight feeders full with 52 ounces each of sugar water every three or four days. A price I’m more than willing to pay for the pleasure of their company.
Juncos, sparrows of various sorts, house finches and the occasional nuthatch and hooded grosbeak feed at the seed feeders. Doves, squirrels and some giant pigeons busy themselves foraging the ground fall seed splattered by the other birds as they try for the sunflower seeds in the feeder mix. Owls and coyotes add their songs to the chorus most nights. Though I no longer feel as free as I did in the past to go solo-hiking in the wilder places, views of the mountains out my desk window and from everywhere in my meadow along with the resident and visiting wildlife – while not as away-from-civilization as the hiking trails – do keep me feeling in touch with the natural world.
The past almost two months have been, thankfully, a time of gradually slowing down from the endless activities around the book’s production and launching. The five months from mid-October (the start of having the manuscript formatted for CreateSpace) through the February 4th release of the paperback, the March 9th release of the Kindle to the March 22nd release of the iBook and Nook versions – were filled with myriad unpredictable things to do/address. Over the months since the February release, I’ve sent out or hand delivered 275 copies of the book – to friends, family, clients, former clients with whom I’m still in touch, booksellers of various sorts (some of whom have taken a few copies on consignment), magazines (review copies), the office waiting rooms of my masseuses, my acupuncturist, chiropractor, and alternative/complementary medical practitioner, the Santa Barbara rape crisis center, the local GLBT resource center library and an assortment of other people suggested to me by people to whom I’d already sent copies.
Despite all the giveaways, Amazon and the iBookstore have – in the 83 days since it’s been available for purchase – sold 137 copies and six consigned books have sold locally. It feels like a good and solid beginning and the response has been really satisfying: it’s touching people deeply. Most people are reading it in bits and pieces as they open it randomly and read just the chapter they’ve opened to rather than reading it from cover to cover. I feel as though, in producing the book and spreading it around I’ve completed a major (and long-term!) assignment from Spirit. Whatever post-partum I might have had actually came in December when the first bound proofs arrived. Now, even as I’m excited by its existence and have been handling so many copies of it as I’ve mailed and delivered them, it still feels more than a little surreal that the book truly exists in the world.
My last round of mailings (the review copies) went out the 4th of April. Since then it’s felt like I’ve actually had more of my familiar, usually slow-paced life back. With the returning open time and space, I’ve finally been able to do all the chores and rituals I ordinarily do in November, December and January. Though I was amazed at how easily I’d been able to let go of all these important-to-me-activities-at-year’s-end when it was clear there was no room for them, it’s been a huge joy to have the space to finally get to all of them.
In the past few weeks I’ve been able: To do the annual vacuuming and primping of all the 20 Spirit Mother Totem fiber masks of mine that live on the walls of my cottage. To do the once-a-year wipe down and grooming of the leaves on all the 21 houseplants that live with me. To do the yearly going through all the clothes in my walk-in closet and chest of drawers, gathering a huge bag of lovely things that I no longer wear either because I no longer dress those ways or because, since my inner thermostat has changed over the past few years, I’ve stopped wearing any of the collection of sweaters I’d gathered before that change. And, finally, just last weekend, I got to empty everything out of my backyard storage shed and go through all of it. I reorganized the way I store the inventory of my note cards now that they are for sale in three assorted grouping of six different designs. And, at last, I packed up all the remaining backpacking and car-camping gear that I’d winnowed down last year. I’d, then, not yet been ready to fully acknowledge that my days of either of those kinds of camping were past.
As I carted the bags and boxes to the two local thrift stores I like to contribute to, I felt exhilarated. Over then next few days, I’d repeatedly wander into my clothes closet or my shed to admire the new order and spaciousness I’d created. The delight and rush of joy I felt each time was amazing. It tickles me so that such simple and mundane things always bring me so much pleasure: both in the process of the doing and in the outcome.
Now, all that’s left of my long-delayed annual cleansing/getting current rituals is the updating of the information in the Letter of Instruction that goes with my Will, Advanced Directive and Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Financial Matters. With the many new bank and business accounts that have come with the book’s birth and with my moving into the 21st century of online ordering/Paypal capability on the compassionateink.com website, there’s lots to be added to that Letter. I try to make sure that the information my Executor will need is updated at least yearly so she’ll not be left with the kinds of mess my sister’s Executor had to plow through. Just as the time for everything else I’d had to postpone emerged, time for this last bit will surely come at some point.
Barbara, my dear friend and amazing-collaborator-in-charge-of-everything about getting the book out into the world has been handling our Facebook and other social media pages, the Compassionate Ink website and, as well, been working on the mobile device-friendly redesign of the For the Little Ones Inside website. Absent only the dozen-year archives of the monthly Bulletin Boards (now renamed as the Journals), the site is pretty much complete (and, I think, quite wonderful). This new version of the site will include all the tales/essays in their most polished-for-the-book form. My assignment over the next two weeks is to proof read all the Monthly Musings (organized now as Rememberings and Celebration Card-related essays in each of four Pathways) and all the Stories as they appear on the new site to make sure nothing went awry in the transfer of data from the book files to it. So, this will likely be the last Bulletin Board on the old For the Little Ones site: another milestone in this amazing journey.
Barbara just yesterday brought over a several page mock-up of her vision for the Journal Book. It’s a much looser, more inviting design than the one I’d had in mind when I’d first got on board with the idea of using the texts and images of my note, post and poster cards as prompts for journaling in an otherwise blank book. I absolutely loved her ideas and am very excited about the way this second book project is emerging. What’s so amazing to me (and to Barbara) is how easily I let go of my original (actually quite pedestrian in the end) conception in favor of what seems to me to be a brilliant design concept.
Earlier on in this journey of collaborating with someone in what for me had always been solo creative space, it would have been inconceivable to acknowledge or accept someone else’s creative input. This season in my life seems all about letting go both of old habits (like my investment in my end-of-year rituals) and old ways that insisted I always be sufficient unto my self, unavailable to help or collaborative involvement of any sort. It feels like it began three years ago when I needed and actually welcomed help dismantling my sister’s hoarder’s apartment after her unexpected death. A year later, I moved further into allowing in help (from a paid caregiver as well as from friends) when I broke my elbow. (Though I’d also been committed to figuring out inventive ways to manage one-handed with my non-dominant hand.) Then, last year, when I cracked the trochanter (knob) of my femur, I did even better asking for and receiving help – feeling much less compelled that time to find ways to make do by my self. I think all three experiences in ordinary life created a pathway for me to be open/available to receiving/allowing help/collaboration in the more delicate creative spaces.
As a young child, needing or wanting help of any sort had left me filled with shame and terror. Allowing in or receiving help opened me to devastating ridicule and humiliation from my mother. I learned that to be safe, I had to do only what I could do my self; that it was safest to do without whatever I couldn’t manage on my own. Any unsolicited help she gave carried with it the harsh message that I was beneath contempt for being unable to do whatever it was for my self. That basic training, the depth of that wounding, taught me that independence and self-sufficiency were critical to my survival and my self-esteem. I’ve lived most of my almost 73 years experiencing offers of help as unwelcomed intrusions, as implying that I was deficient, as undermining to my well-being, as patronizing or as criticism.
Over the years, even as I’d realized all of this underpinning context, I’d made my peace with doing what I could do on my own or doing without. I felt no push to get over or through this way of being me. How astonishing it is to be in these new places at this moment of my life; how amazing it is to now be able to incorporate someone else’s vision without feeling it diminishes me to do that. And, how relieving it’s being to be able to have someone (my amazing-collaborator-in-charge-of-everything) design and build a website for me (albeit with some collaboration) instead of having to do it on my own! How wonderful it is to embrace someone else’s compelling and beautiful vision of how to assemble my words and images into an inviting journaling book.
The whole adventure of bringing the first book out into the world has been a journey in building and embracing a team of exquisite and gifted helpers. Clearly the Journal Book is taking me deeper into this new territory of creative collaboration. What’s even more surprising than that it is happening at all is that it’s happening so painlessly.
To celebrate all of my journey so far with Go Only as Fast as Your Slowest Part Feels Safe to Go: Tales to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion for Our Exhausted Selves, I decided to give my self the gift of four more of Shelley Buonaiuto’s magnificent laughing-Grandmothers-sitting-on-cushions resin sculptures. (Her Grandmother Nanima is the sculpture on my altar in the cover photo for both this and the future Journal Book.) More about these Grandmother sculptures soon! For now, and for an advance peek, you might go visit Shelley’s wonderful website: alittlecompany.net.  Be prepared to be knocked out.
A dear client/friend who, along with her checks, sends me various goodies she downloads and/or photoshop-fiddles-with from the internet sent me this wonderful quote this month:
I suddenly realized one day that if a friend talked to me the way I talk to myself, they wouldn’t be my friend anymore. So I started being my friend and life got a lot better.  -Janice Leber