Prosecutors Will Be Shoplifted

photo by Mary Dessein, allowed by Bowie
And Inspector Goatling will be checking. Is he adorable, or what? And Bowie’s twin brother, Gene, poking his inquisitive self right in there, too.

The wonder of animals, as they are so present in the moment. Who knew goats are affectionate and like to be cuddled? The dearest behavior, which I expect from my kitties and just melted me when hugging the goats, was that each goat put his head on my shoulder. Granted, it was for a few seconds, yet they did.

Present in the moment as well as letting go. I am famous for saying I raised my children with wings not strings. Okay fine, famous in my own mind, yet walking that talk is entirely another experience – an ongoing one to boot. My blog nearly three years ago about when my son stepped through the SeaTac airport door at 6 a.m. to go back to Tennessee, was when it felt like my heart was splintering off in shards. Especially when he acknowledged he didn’t want to leave. Didn’t want to leave home.

Home. We each have to find our homes. Most of us many times in life. I am again at that point: where is my home now? How do I find it? What opportunities will arise for me?

I watch my daughter and son-in-law, both remarkable, flexible, creative people, search for and find their home. Visiting them (and my grand-goats and grand-puppies!) is such a delight as I witness the struggles, joys, and rewards in the myriad of things they are doing as they work toward the vision they have of their future. And their home.

Looking back, my style at their age was much more of a ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants’ operating system. If it seemed like a good idea at the time, then, “Okay! I’m ready to go.” There is certainly a history to support that, yet lest I go into it now, suffice it to say it was my m.o. for decades. It took me even longer to recognize it as an m.o. I was not an Ennio Morricone or Meryl Streep who knew what they wanted to do at a young age and pursued it single-mindedly.

The term shoplifting is thought to be first documented as such in 1591 by British playwright, Robert Green. Originally called ‘lifting,’ it is obviously not a new phenomenon. Lifting is also raising to a higher position, or perhaps moving to a different position; I get that connection.

When I was with my kiddoes in a fabric store on Friday, the red and white warning sign to shoplifters was reversed in my mind at my first quick glance at it. Hhmm, I knew some prosecutors that could use some lifting back in the day when I worked in the legal system. I digress.

How do I find my home now? It involves the concept of trust. Dang, that is a hard one. To trust, don’t I need some control, some input, some history? This dance of trust and faith fascinates me, as I don’t have it figured out; it is a beautiful concept, yet how to live it. I’ll spend some time on this terpsichorean connection soon.

As to this moment with trust and faith, there is a saying we heard in the Program often, and in the counseling world, attributed to various sources, a prominent one is O.R. Melling, “When you come to the edge of all you know, you must believe one of two things: either ground will appear to stand on or you will learn to fly.”

Really? Trust in what? My intuition. Some message from the Universe. An ad in the personals. Well, two out of three’s pretty good.

So then will I lift or prosecute? Maybe both as prosecute also means continue on a course of action with a view to completion. I am definitely invested in finding where I belong at this chapter of my life… I plan on it containing occasional hugs from goatlings and grand-puppies.

“Life is a journey through a foreign land.” Another from O.R. Melling. That’s an understatement, right?

A Harp and a Stone

Harp Camp photo by Mary Dessein
Harp Camp. Can you imagine such a divine experience – to be with twenty other harpists over a weekend to play together, to learn, to be supported in your music wherever your expertise is, without competition?

The event’s official name is the Puget Sound Folk Harp Society Annual Summer Harp Retreat. It was Harp Camp to me. Not only were my companions of kindred spirit, we were at Camp Casey on the west side of Whidbey Island, right on the beach, where I could wander and see the Port Townsend ferry going back and forth as I skipped rocks. Smooth, flat rocks like my dad showed me were the best to propel across the water.

Of the total twenty-four people there, I knew one person. And she knew one person there: me. So, compatriots.

This Harp Retreat has been going on for over twenty years, I was encouraged to attend it by my harp teacher a few times. I always had a reason I couldn’t go: timing, work, finances, kids – I was not very creative. The real reason being, of course, that I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and in such a situation, everyone would know!

The event was planned so well: we had two-hour breaks for meals which allowed us time for wandering, socializing, walking to the Admiral Head lighthouse, and/or jamming together. As I walked the beach, I kept a vigilant eye out for the flat, round, palm-of-my-hand sized skipping stones. I also saw tangles of cola-colored kelp, empty tan and orange crab shells with green algae growing on them, long strands of green quarter-inch wide seaweed all carried up onto the rocky beach in the calming soosh of the waves.

I was skipping along in my life, doing things I enjoyed, with a rather whimsical approach, not really knowing or planning where the skip would take me, yet enjoying the hopping along.

Certainly I had heard the various guides to success: make a five and ten year plan; focus on your goal; Action Changes Things. I read and enjoyed Steven Pressfield’s books on artistic endeavors, including ‘The War of Art’ and ‘Do the Work.’ I am a walking, talking example of the power of Resistance, Steven’s embodiment of the things that combine to sway us from our creativity.

Harp Camp got over late morning on Sunday. I visited with others, helped clean up, made a last walk to the nearby beach. Then launched toward home. My intuition guided me to the longest route; going straight home was not an option. I returned to the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, then walked on the beach at Ebey’s Landing a couple hours, at Deception Pass Park another hour, and stopped on the Deception Pass Bridge for a while. The beauty, wonder, energy, insight, and honesty were swirling around inside me, forming words so I could understand the swirl.

I knew what I felt: wonder, excitement, connection to new friends, hope, humility and … a clearer knowing.

Smack-a-roo right in my face: I could be a better harpist and better musician. Why wasn’t I doing it? I knew clearly what I wanted: to make music, write books, teach along the way, and perform.

My friend Greg D., richly experienced and skilled guitar player and performer, has gotten on my case about using more harmony and options with my left hand. I processed this a few ways, including telling him once that I am a harpist not a guitarist. Yet, what I now see, one of the things he was pressing me to do was be better. And that he believed I could be.

Marianne Williamson’s words come back to me, words I have used often in teaching, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small does not serve the world.”

I can coast along and do fine. There are many things I am good at, thank you very much. Is fine good enough?

As my earthly clock is ticking much faster now, my mortality has become more real. Health concerns? Not significant ones, but I’ll never see 50 again. So…I must now dispel my denial that I will actually really die one day as well as my tendency to procrastinate doing creative things in order to do a myriad of other ‘important’ things. Yes, for other people or entities, hence the shadow.

Steven Pressfield identifies the ‘shadow career’ or ‘shadow life,’ as something I am good at, may even excel at, yet is not my passion or my talent, nor does it fulfill me the same way engaging in my creativity does. It is a shadow in that because I am successful doing the shadow activity, it fools me away from my passion; my ego may join forces with the shadow, “You’re good at this, don’t rock the boat.”

As I look back on Arthur Storch’s comment to Aaron Sorkin, “You have the capacity to be so much better than you are,” I admit I wanted to shine but have been afraid to shine too much. Some is okay but too many people noticing me? Nope, uh-uh, no way.

I am now seeing the limitations I have put on myself. The allowing myself to chase nearly every shiny thing I see has certainly brought me some interesting experiences (walking on the Great Wall of China, putting my hand on the pyramids at Chichen Itza, paddling a gondola in Venice, climbing the 284 stairs to the top of L’Arc de Triomphe to view the vista of Paris) and there is value there. Yet, I need to find the balance.

Yup, it is time to be honor my talents and step out. I will up my game. “… playing small does not serve the world” or me. As a child on the beach with my dad, there were times when I had just the right stooped-over-to-the-side posture, my stone hit the water at just the right angle, and I sailed a stone so that it skipped seven times in its dance across the water.

My skipping stones are now stepping stones.

I Just Had To…

Drawing by S., CP Elementary student
“I stayed in from recess to make this for you.”

She reached out tentatively to hand me a water-color drawing she had made. She being a 6th grade student who had been in the first class I performed for that morning.

“I just had to do this. When you told the story about the two sisters with one’s name like mine and the harp made of bones, I had to draw this.”
What a picture: there was my harp, me, and three of the stories I’d told! She’d heard, she’d listened, she’d thought.
No wonder I do this.

When I was in Juvenile Detention last week, the jail facility for kids under age eighteen, I was in the library waiting for my first class of kids. One of the boys saw me from the hallway and snapped, “Oh f—.” Not the usual response when kids see me, I am happy to report, however, it was his that morning. The boys trooped in and sat down in the semi-circle of chairs facing me. He pulled his tee shirt up to below his eyes, crossed his arms, and looked down at his feet, legs stretched out in front of him. Thirty minutes of stories and music later, he was sitting up asking questions, and forty minutes later he was telling me how he would have changed one part of the folktale from Ecuador I had just told them. After the Haitian tale, “One My Darlin,” he made a comment about forgiveness, which started a discussion among the boys.

No wonder I do this.

Jill Johnson, an accomplished writer, teacher, storyteller, and actor, wrote about when she was telling to and with elders in Auckland, New Zealand in February of this year, that when she saw the elders tell family stories, the youth listening, and the priceless connection being made, she said, “THIS …. is why I do this work.”

I get it more clearly every time I perform lately – telling and making music for elementary school kids, incarcerated kids, or my neighbor. The connecting, the re-discovering the truth that people have common elements of being human be they from China, Patagonia, Egypt, Saskatchewan, or Iceland. You never know what will reach someone. My part, and privilege, is to deliver the story, keep out of the way the best I can, and let the story spin out its storyness.

Truth & Dare …

My mom & her sister, Jackie 1929

Did I mention the signals my foot has been receiving from outer space? Maybe I didn’t, thinking you might not understand.

I, too, thought they were something else.
The first one came as I was sitting in my living room reading when I felt the outer side of my right foot vibrate, like my phone does when I receive a text. Hhhm, the stereo must be louder than I realized as I figured it was the music vibrating through the floor. Then it happened again a few minutes later. I got up and turned the stereo down. Soon my foot vibrated again. This time, I turned the stereo off.

A little while later, the same unmistakable vibration buzzed my foot. Was this some weird kind of stroke? I had no other symptoms, no discomfort; nada niente nothing to indicate I was having a physical issue.

That scenario was repeated in other rooms of my home, at various times. It became clear to me these vibrations were messages meant to get my attention. Where could they be originating? It had to be from space. I wasn’t standing on my cell phone. Or on my stereo. Or my microwave. Or my portable heater. It had to be outer space.

I grew up with Rod Serling, Isaac Assimov, and Madeleine L’Engle. I learned long ago that the truth often comes packaged as fantasy. Truth is easier to accept that way when it seems to be someone else’s made-up story.

Reminds me of the movie, ‘A Few Good Men,’ when Jack Nicholson shouted, “You can’t handle the truth!”
A Few Good Men‘ was written by Aaron Sorkin. Ah, the truth.

In dealing with one person I am on a volunteer committee with, I am frequently frustrated by her ‘little white lies,’ her denials, her positioning herself to look important and be the boss. When I gently called this out recently from a side angle about members making decisions for the committee yet without committee input, she again lied, denied, and huffed. I got no support from the other members, yet their silence also contained no defense of her. I so wanted to holler, “You can’t handle the truth!”
I didn’t. Yet later I did wonder, are there times when that applies to me?

As to Aaron Sorkin, he knows alot about alot of things. He reports a pivotal impact in his life was from one of his teachers at Syracuse University, Arthur Storch, who repeatedly said to Aaron, “You have the capacity to be so much better than you are.” Finally, Aaron asked the famous director and alumnus of the Actors Studio, “How?”
Storch answered, “Dare to fail.”

Truth. Failure. Growth. Ask questions. Follow the thread of intuition – trust it will lead somewhere valuable. Or, it will protect.

What was the message from outer space? Perhaps to pay attention. Trust. Watch small things, as everything has importance. Learn to prioritize.
Let whimsy lead me to the truth? Or… I have the capacity to be so much better than I am?

We shall see.

Wrinkle in Reality

Photo by Mary Dessein
A wrinkle in time. Sure, I’ve had one of those… okay, several of them. One fold happens when I look at the framed photo of my eighteen-month old curly-topped son hanging in my hallway. Then I realize he and I haven’t talked in three weeks. Oh yeah, he lives 2,500 miles from me and is thirty-five years old. My starz.

My wrinkles are not as remarkable as Madeleine L’Engle’s. Even though it was fun to remind my son of when I drove with he and his dad to Portland, Oregon when he was about four years old in order to hear Madeleine speak, he didn’t remember the trip or Madeleine L’Engle. However, it was a lovely reminder for me of the seats we had up in the curved balcony in a huge old church to see her, to hear her talk about her father’s health condition and her spending time as a little girl living in a castle in Europe. Remarkable is barely the beginning to describe her.

Ava DuVernay’s recent movie version of A Wrinkle in Time is worth seeing. It is as much about love, family, loyalty, community, belief in one’s self, and tenacity as it is about science fiction and interplanetary space travel.

In part, what launches A Wrinkle in Time is an inadvertent consequence, an unpredicted result to a pursued goal (Dr. Alex Murry, who is the main character, Meg’s father, achieves his goal of finding the tesseract and successfully tessering, however he gets trapped on a planet far away and cannot escape.) Oh my, I’ve had one or two of those unpredicted results. Haven’t you? Such as getting the promotion then getting transferred and having to leave all the co-workers who helped you get it and whom you trust. Or bringing your spouse with you to volunteer at the Food Bank, who then falls in love with one of the other volunteers, and a year later you find yourself divorced. I know, I know, “one door closes and another one opens;” and the ever popular “life presents us with opportunities for personal growth.” I do endorse those beliefs, it just takes me a little time to get back in the saddle.

In the three deleted pages from A Wrinkle in Time, released by her granddaughter in 2015, pages which the publisher perhaps thought too political or controversial, Ms. L’Engle talks about the dangers of pursuing security, that security is a seductive thing, and that the sick longing for it is a dangerous thing, and … insidious.

How are we manipulated by supervisors, credit card companies, politicians, retailers, spouses, neighbors, perhaps even our children, by their threatening our security or offering to enhance it? By dictators and autocrats? Yee gods, that list is endless and will continue to be so. Fascinating that Ms. L’Engle called this out in a conversation between a father and daughter. The father attempting to show his daughter a larger view, that questioning, exploring, and taking risks are what move us forward.

My regrets in life, the few I have, are related to what I did not do for my children. Sometimes it was that I did not set limits. My most lamentatious ones are when I did not protect them, or did not stand up for them. I was unable to de-stabilize my alleged security. In hindsight, I say alleged as it really wasn’t stable. With their dad, with my employer, with my sense of obligation to others, or that nebulous entity: what I thought others thought of me.

And another wrinkle – security and safety are not the same nor interchangeable.
None of that was within my grasp twenty-five years ago.

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” Madeleine L’Engle.