Toothpaste and Survival

Sheep Rock, OR. photo by Mary Dessein
Most people would throw it away.
I take the seemingly empty toothpaste tube, cut it open, and get every bit of toothpaste out of it, easily five more uses before I throw the absolutely 100% empty tube away. The stick of deodorant is seemingly empty, the container is flat across the top of the stick. No… I scoop out the remainder inside the stick, clearly a couple weeks more deodorant still in there.
And the lipstick tube? Why it has a good 1/8th of an inch of usable lipstick in the bottom. I thought these were normal practices, until it was brought to my attention that not everyone does these things.
We won’t go into Christmas bags and bows…

I was born a good twenty-five years after the Great Depression. Yet my parents were raised during those years.
It appears my, shall we say intense, frugality was carried forward from them.

Another belief that I have struggled with since I was a teen is ‘men are authority figures and are to be obeyed.’ The struggle was that the belief was firmly implanted, yet my intuition resisted all the time. Looking back as I recognize this falsehood, I am lucky to be alive as being obedient included backseats of cars, saying yes when all my insides shouted No, getting in a VW bus and driving to Yugoslavia with a stranger from the Venice train station, not asking questions when dicey situations were presented, allowing abusive behavior to go on yet saying nothing.

Here’s one for you: food is solace and comfort for whatever troubles you. Oh my. I have dealt with overweight since I was young. Something that tastes good will make the problem and uneasy feelings go away, right? Related to that, here is another recipe for life-long eating issues: “There are starving children in China – you must eat every morsel on your plate whether you are hungry or not.” These over-rode a child’s natural response. Kids are truth-tellers and instinct-followers: they make candid reports (“You smell funny. You have a big nose. I don’t like that.”) to avoiding people and situations they are uneasy about.

So who’s stories were those? Old stories happening through me? If they are not my stories, what are mine? I have a right to my own stories don’t I?

In thinking about my parents this morning – my mom, Josette, gone three and a half years and my dad, Kenney, gone thirty-three and a half, I wonder what they would tell me now that they’ve had a long distance view.
Then a mental shazaam followed: what would my sister tell me? She died fourteen and a half years ago at the age of forty-nine and four days of “undetermined causes” as there was no clear explanation for why her heart stopped. What would Rosie tell me? Was she living her own story, or someone else’s? I have often wondered since that difficult time, was she looking for her own path, what was her dream? She had drifted along, trying various occupations such as working on fishing boats in Alaska, photography, office work, and was in optician school when she died.

Virtuoso pianist in Montreal playing Bohemian Rhapsody

What I am learning about my own story and my own path is that I create it, albeit standing on the shoulders of those before me. I watch the magnificent thousands of geese arching above me and the hummingbirds flitting about my porch at the feeders even as it is snowing. True to one’s self, true to one’s heart really is survival. The ‘shoulds’ are falling away as I recognize them. Byron Katie’s work is reflected here on being with what is.

Being true to myself and true to my heart’s calling is my survival and the path to writing my own story.

A Gentle Whisper in Flight

Hundreds and hundreds of geese flying overhead in chevrons, lines, and groups which were morphing into other formations, lines, and multi-layered chevrons as I watched. Speechless, I saw the seemingly endless intersections of birds squawking as they flew. The cascade of thousands of honks sounded like a multitudinous chorus of squeaks so far above me.

Geese Photo by Mary Dessein

I had initially looked up upon hearing the first few and thought, “It’s early December, late for geese,” as I stood there in the parking lot on that late afternoon, getting near dusk. The black bodies of the geese in flight clearly visible against the soft grey sky. Then I saw the zillions of birds in the distance, wave after wave of them, coming from different but analogous directions to swoop together, then diverge into another chevron while still others melded into the massive movement.

Fluctuating, reforming constantly.
Captivated, I watched for at least fifteen minutes until just a few strands of birds straggled behind the swarm.

The glory of being in the right place at the right time. And taking the time.

A couple weeks later, between Snohomish and Monroe, were again thousands of geese. This time, white snow geese. They were flying, swirling like a magnificent tornado, their wings catching the pink-tinged, golden light of the late afternoon sun. The distant sound of their honking a gentle whisper that I held my breath in order to hear.
Looking for their evening settlement, their safe place. Yes, I know that search. I bet you do, too.

In the last few days of sub-zero weather, I’ve watched the calypte anna hummingbirds zip around the feeder on my porch, then land on the clothes-line, or on the near naked fuchsia branches in the hanging basket. The calypte anna is the species of hummingbird that does not migrate. It seems 12 degree weather does not slow them down any. Interestingly, hummingbirds cannot walk. Their tiny feet are made for perching.
Imagine that: flying at near lightening speed, shining like a jewel in the sun, and not being able to walk. Yet not knowing any of those things, as the hummingbirds are simply being who they are.

Being in the right place at the right time and simply being who you truly are.
My search goes on.