Monday, June 18, 2018

Making Spaces

THIS is the Tower of Terror. It's a pile of vintage fabric and clothes that I've inherited and collected over the past 15 years. What do I do with it, you ask? Why, I tell myself I'm going to USE it one day, going to turn it into something AMAZING!

I've been telling myself that for 15 years.

THIS is my work/art shelf. It's stuffed with magazines and drawings and books. I can hardly get to it for the large containers that sit in front of it and the suitcase full of craft supplies. Again, been hanging on to these things for at least 15 years...some possibly longer.

Lately I've felt claustrophobic creatively. I can't stretch out my elbows and there's no room to type or sew or cut paper. There's no room to invite others over to dive into the piles and stacks. There's no space mentally for me to create.

Let's move! I cry. PLEASE! Some place larger...someplace our own.

I dream of - long for - a place of my own.

A place where I can paint the walls, change out the door knobs, rip up flooring, gut bathrooms.

A place where the yard is big enough to breathe in, doesn't over look everyone's back yard and has a 9 foot privacy fence all the way around it.

A place where I don't have to be “on” all the time, where if I walk out on my carport the weird neighbor next door isn't looking through his fence at me,.

I've never owned a home of my own.

I'll be 41 this year.

Space is sacred where we are. The living room tends to stay tidy; it's the main space. We sit here, eat here, watch TV here, read here, listen to records here, play with the cats here, entertain friends on the coffee table here.

The rest of the house?
Remember the “Tower of Terror”?

Two weeks ago I started digging through my books. I need SPACE I cried and pulled from the stacks books I'd never read, books I'd never read, books that I read but won't read again. It felt good. I did it to another book shelf, the one that sits in the small square we call The Hall. I got stacks of books off the floor. They're not waiting to be transported to a Little Free Library or to become part of another project.

The space created is nothing I can use but it's everything. It made me see progress and hope. It made me realize that perhaps my clinging to things has caused the stagnation in my creativity.

Right now, my back is to the work space area, where the Tower of Terror resides. I know what I have to do I'm just, as Frodo said, afraid to do it.

Why? It would free up space. It would allow me to start something I've long wanted to do but haven't had the out-going guts to do it. It would give me breathing room for projects to be born rather than the mire that refuses to let go of any supply much less allow something to breathe a breath of life.

Do you cling to things? Ideas, stories, craft supplies? There are things I'll never get rid of: stuffed animals from my past, some of my grandmother's clothes, a small set of oil paints my Mom used to paint with in our living room when I was a really little girl. But the Tower of Terror? It's got to go, got to be cut down to size and turned into a long held idea that would, in all reality, give me the space and the freedom and the breathing room I need to create MORE. To dream MORE.

And who knows where all that space may lead?


Monday, June 11, 2018

Toasting the Waiting

I haven't looked at my computer in over a week.
I haven't written anything in over a month.

Isn't it funny how life runs in cycles? Round and round it goes, pulling us in, centrifugally we turn and ebb and flow.

And that's OK. Really. We don't have to always be “on”. I know; 'modern life' demands it. Jobs and families and dreams and goals knock and scramble and tug on our apron strings. “What about me? I'm hungry! Are you there yet? What's wrong with you?”

The answer to that last one is, “Nothing.”

Nothing at all.

You're just fine. Really!

So you've got obligations beyond your control. We all do. So you've got to show up at the day job or you can't keep the lights on and the computer fed. So you've got kids and pets and partners who need – yes – need you. Guess what? YOU need YOU, too.

Yep. And you'd better give yourself what you need.

Just like you feed the nephews and clean out the litter box and keep the dog supplied with belly rubs, you need to prop up your feet, sip some tea, and dream a little dream of you.

I know what you're thinking: I can't. It's selfish. I can't take the time.
And guess what I'M thinking: Yes you can. No it's not. Yes you can.

If you need to take a step back from writing, do it.
If you need to go shopping at the thrift store and buy a new to you pair of socks, do it.
If you need to go to a park, a shopping mall, the beach, Spain (and you can), do it.

  • and if you go to Spain, I'll gladly carry your luggage -

The point is, you don't have to be “on” all the time, no matter what social media tells you. You don't have to always keep up with somebody else's track record. You don't have to keep your house looking just like that Instagram account you love and hate and envy.

You have to be you.
You NEED to be you.
You GET to be YOU.

Three days ago I opened my computer up and felt a breeze of anticipation. I've been thinking deep about writing and direction lately and there's this voice that keeps telling me the path is “over there”. “Nope, not there, uh-uh, nope, yes – right there!”

How many times have you re-evaluated your Writing Path? Or are you one of the “lucky ones” and you've always walked the one that feels good to your bare feet? Either way, do you ever struggle with keeping up with YOU, whether that looks like taking a break, changing genres, or just sitting back a moment, glass of white wine, and letting the directions wash over you, give you an idea of where they lead, and then give yourself room to really contemplate the direction your spirit is calling you towards?

I suppose it's that last scenario that I find myself in. The wine is chilled and is a sharp Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa (thank YOU, Porcupine Ridge *kissy face*). My feet are bare and are either pointing towards my coffee plant or out to sea. There's probably dirt or sand (or both) under my toe nails). And I'm sipping and thinking and enjoying the labyrinth. I'm smiling at the wondrous spiral of it all and trying not to sing “Dance, Magic, Dance” too much while pondering this analogy, though the mental image of David Bowie ain't half bad.

The truth is, I'm actually enjoying the uncertainty. The ride. The crazy, painful, confusing, joy of rethinking the voice I've used for ages and the voice that's sitting, just there, at the base of my throat, waiting to scream. Or sing. Or yodel. Whatever it's doing, it's waiting and stewing like a pack of churning thunder clouds over Little Tybee on a Thursday afternoon. Close. Forbidding. But far enough that I don't have to run for cover...yet.

I've taken to toasting the waiting. The rest. I gotta funny feeling that it's a calm before a storm.

And I'm taking all the time I can to prepare.


PS: So I totally missed the IWSG day for June. Whoops! My mom's been in town for a week and I sorta kinda focused on that :D. I hope you all had a marvelous romp through Bloglandia and shared inspiration and encouragement across the spheres. I'll be back in July! Unless someone else shows up to stay for a week...

Monday, May 28, 2018

Gathering Happiness

It's been raining here for DAYS! Not that I'm complaining. It's been wonderful to sit outside under the carport roof and watch the rain gather in the lane and drift lazily past like our own private river. The plants, of course, love it and the neighbors' mimosa tree is fit to burst with luscious, fluffy, pink blossoms. If you've never seen Albizia julibrissin in bloom, get thee to a Google search. It looks like something from Fairy, a tree that would have encircled Lothlorien or Tir na nOg. The little flowers remind me of Red from "Fraggle Rock" :

In Chinese medicine, Mimosa flowers are called He Huan Hua which translates to "full happiness flowers." They are used for its uplifting, energizing, and "anti-depressant" properties. The Chinese herbalists have known about Mimosa's calming and mood improving wonders for centuries. As usual, Westerners are just now learning about this amazing plant.

Our neighbors' tree drapes over our courtyard and over the back lane. No one lives in the house (at least, we're relatively sure no one does. They occasionally wander out back to cut the grass.) and no one gives the gorgeous tree a second glance except for me. She spreads her limbs wide, shading our cafe table and chairs from most of the hot summer sun. Her blossoms explode throughout the day: new ones appearing where old ones dried up and fell or from the bare stems that I create when I harvest the flowers for my tincture making.

Tinctures are simple infusions of herbs - leaves, roots, bark, and/or flowers - steeped in alcohol. The alcohol extracts the useful properties of the herb and preserves it so the herbalist can use it for years after extraction. When I first considered making my own mimosa tincture, I searched for a good, clear recipe and found this one on Hearth Side Healing's website. It's simple, concise, and gives a wonderful history into the use of mimosa. The instructions for making the tincture are my paraphrase from the original website.

The first to appear on the mimosa's branches are the leaves; little fern like protrusions that open with the sun and close up when it begins to get dark. Then you begin to see the buds. You wait and wait and suddenly - POP! - there's no end to the blossoms! And the fragrance is intoxicating. It's a faint, sweet floral aroma that catches you a bit off guard. You wonder where it came from; you sniff the air and then see the hot pink tendrils swaying gently in the breeze. The tree hums with honey and bumble bees and other tiny, winged insects all getting drunk on the nectar. I've even found several little inch worms in my harvest that I've had to carefully relocate back to the tree from my kitchen counters.

My first introduction to mimosa flowers was at my great aunt's house when I was a little girl. There was a lake hidden behind her house, down a winding dirt path, through pine trees and kudzu. Suddenly the path opened and there was a pavilion, some picnic tables, and a small lake. All around this lake were these magical trees filled with pink, fuzzy flowers. We picked tons of them, rubbing them against our faces and breathing in their fragrance. We were always sad by how fast they wilted, shriveling from their glory to grungy brown clumps of musty smelling botanical cast-offs. Now I know how to preserve that magical essence; not so much the fragrance but the sweetness of the blossoms in a tincture that tastes of late spring all year long.

Homemade Mimosa Tincture
(original recipe found on Hearth Side Healing)

First you need mimosa blossoms! Get out to your local mimosa tree and carefully pluck a basketful of blossoms. Talk to her, tell her why you need the flowers and ask her permission to harvest. She'll gently sway with the breeze and let you. Trees are giving with their medicine wisdom.

Once you've got enough, you'll want to give each one of them a little twist, spinning the fronds quickly in order to get rid of any dew that may still be collected on the little fuzzies and any tiny bugs that may be nestled into the fronds. I'll be honest with you: you won't get them all but don't get all squeamish. They'll crawl out and you can smoosh them or send them back outside.

Spread them out in one layer either on screens, drying racks, or baking sheets. Let them dry for a couple of hours or, if you must wait until the next day to gather more to fill your jars, let them sit, uncovered, over night.

While those blossoms are drying, gather some good, clean and dry jars, a bottle of brandy, and some honey (local if you can get it).

Once the blossoms have dried for at least 3-4 hours, put them into your jars. Don't pack them too tightly, just let them settle down into the jars. Give them a little shake, add more until they fill it comfortably.

Fill the jar half way with honey then fill it the rest of the way with the brandy. Give it a careful stir to get the honey and brandy mingling, screw on the lid, and put the jar or jars into a cool, dark place for about a month. Check on the jars each week, giving them a little shake to make sure everything gets good and mixed. After about four weeks (you can always leave them in their longer), you're going to strain out the botanical material and bottle up your tincture into clean jars. I like to put mine in 1oz dropper bottles. It makes it easier to use but I always have an over-abundance that stays in the jars until I can decant it all into the smaller containers.

Spread your blossoms out to dry.

Fill up your jars! Enjoy the fragrance between your fingers.

Pour in that runny honey. No one will judge you if you let some drip into your mouth.

Now add the brandy (same thing goes for non-judgement here too...)

Stir carefully. Don't want to slosh any of the goodness out.

No need to watch it! It's going to take a month or more to steep.

Fill it up to the top and place in a nice, cool, dark place and let chemistry do it's thing!

To use: put 3-5 dropperfuls straight under your tongue and enjoy the tingling of the brandy and the sweet, floral flavor of the steeped blossoms in honey. I love the put the same amount in a cup of tea, using it as a mild sweetener. Another nice way to enjoy the tincture is to brew some hibiscus tea. While the tea is brewing, fill a glass half way with ice and seltzer water. Pour the hibiscus tea into the iced seltzer and add the 5 dropperfuls of mimosa to the drink. Mmmm...refreshing!

As soon as I'm able to decant this into smaller jars, I'll give you an update of the process, the droppers, and the delicious flavor! If you've got some mimosas growing near you, give this a try! It's simple and it really does help bring on a sense of peace, calm, and well-being. I keep a co-worker well supplied in it and she swears it helps her get through some tough days. I love the subtle way it makes me loosen up and feel a general sense of well-being. 

Not all herbs work for all people; don't look for some miraculous, instant healing. Herbs work synergistically with your body. They go in and help heal. They don't mask symptoms like modern pharmaceuticals. Healing takes time. For every year you've dealt with an illness, you need 3 months plus one months per year of herbal treatment. It's a slow, deliberate process but it can help. Of course if you're on any medication, especially anti-depressants, speak to your health-care provider and/or a local herbalist for information on any medicinal contraindications regarding Albizia julibrissin.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out! Of course you can purchase Albizia tincture from most herb shops, but it's always more special when you can gather and produce your own healing elixir. Hands on healing is best. When you're involved in your healing journey, the well-being you receive is much deeper and more holistic.

Namaste, ya'll!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Reconciling with Summer

Every year I forget how busy Summer gets. Not a busy of business; it's a busy of doing, of enjoying. It's a time when people get together and you stay up way too late laughing and catching up. We live 25 minutes from the beach. People will be coming to stay with us for the next three months.

I try not to plan too much work during the Summer. Writing takes a back seat. That novel I finished? Still haven't done that final read-through. The past two weekends have seen us out of town: once at the beach to spend time with my Mom on Mother's Day and this past weekend for my oldest nephew's high school graduation.

I can't do anything about the work load at my day job. It gets hectic during the last two weeks of each month. No bother; I just have to make sure I plan my time accordingly so I'm not frantically printing sales tags the last Friday of May. Aside from that, however, there's a stillness that comes with the Summer haze and it's one that I'm going to enjoy.

Like many of you, when I was a kid, Summer meant three months of nothing but freedom. School was out and the days were long. We ran barefoot in clover and dandelions. We swam lazily in the backyard pool and played in puddles when it rained. We swept the front porch of our play house pretending we lived in a magical wood beneath the shade of those old, Georgia pines. Those days were endless yet they were suddenly swept away - poof! - when September came. For years I've lamented the loss of Summer Vacation but I'm slowly realizing it's still here, in essence, if I'm willing to sit back, sip slowly, and savor the warmth and wandering that comes with taking each day with a smile and the wonder that the world is still a magical place.

Friends are freer to travel and they'll sleep on our couches. We'll stay up late drinking coffee and tea and chatting about everything from books recently read to current affairs. Family will swing by and stay a few days. We'll drive out to the beach, walk until nightfall. We'll eat at our favorite restaurants and cook favorite meals to share. Friends in town will have cookouts and bonfires and cocktails and we'll sit up laughing until our throats are sore and our eyelids refuse to stay open any longer.

Summer is still a time of freedom, even without the magic of three months of nothing. It's still a time of wonder, even with jobs and responsibilities. Plants are blooming and herbs are harvested at the peak of their medicinal strengths. The Farmer's Market burgeons with the fruits and vegetables, meats and breads of the labors of months of tireless effort. And we sit outside longer after dinner; we make mojitos and listen to jazz. We spend Sunday mornings in the courtyard, watching the lizards flit about in the vines.

We gather mimosa blossoms to turn into tincture which will uplift our hearts and minds during the Winter season. It's a long way off right now, but we know intuitively that the time to gather is now, the time to prepare is now.

We are still connected to the Earth. We are still tied to her rhythms. Modern life cannot drive it away fully. If we are willing to listen, willing to step outside barefoot in the lane, we can still feel her pulling us towards primal ways of life. The current of Summer runs warm between our toes whether we live on dirt, sand, or pavement. The breath of life blows through trees and wanders about marshlands and we, if paying attention, inhale deeply and let it rush through each cell. It carries a message that says, "Slow down. No really. You can take it easier." It's the primal need for rest: rest after the long, dark of winter, the temperamental Spring and before the coming of the business of harvest before we settle again into the cold to come.

I hope you have wonderful plans for the Summer. I hope you have set aside some time to breathe and to listen and to be. I hope you'll be traveling to visit friends and family and far flung places; or I hope you are the far flung place at which others gather. Here's to long days, warm nights, and conversations lasting until 2. Here's to good food and friends and the moments we can forget that we are responsible adults and relish in the magic that is Summer.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Art of Un-Becoming

*To everyone who commented SO KINDLY on my IWSG post, THANK YOU. I worked myself into a relapse last week and haven't had the energy to even look at a computer screen. I'm back at it today and will respond and repay the lovely visit as soon as I can. Your understanding is appreciated :)

**This is a long post. I thank you in advance for reading.


Those two words glare at us from everything from signs to screens to printed page. Sometimes they aren't written out. Mostly they are inferred, unseen voices whispering just behind our ears, vying for the attention they so desperately want and that we so desperately need guarding. In this age of social media, it's a wonder any of us can focus on anything for more than a swipe, a scroll, or a 142 character rant.

That's not the attention I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the attention that we rarely give to ourselves, to our deepest thoughts and actions. It's the "why" behind the "what" we do. Why are you eating that when you know it makes you sick? Why are you scrolling through that screen when you keep telling people you don't have time to read/work out/go for a walk/meet for drinks? We all need down time. We all crave time to do something that can clear our minds and free our emotions for just a moment. Dig even deeper than all of that, though, and ask yourself this: when was the last time you paid attention to your Deep Self?

Who is your Deep Self? Well, the easiest way to describe him/her is to say that they are that person you were before you became who you are now. Clear as mud, right? Last week, I pushed myself too hard at work and ended up in another relapse from H-E-double hockey sticks. While lying on the couch in pain, I wondered about this concept of "becoming". Our whole lives we're asked who we are, what we do. I can remember being about 3 years old and an uncle asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Really? At three? Sure, we all go through the motions of saying things: doctor, lawyer, firefighter, paleontologist (yes, that last answer was mine until the age of sixteen). Many do go on to be those things but mostly we settle down and start thinking outside the scripted box. Yet, if we look hard, we'll find outside the box is still scripted, still what we think we should do, what others want or expect us to do.

Back to the clamoring attention of social media. (Should that be capitalized? I really don't know...) Everywhere you click, people are DOING something, BECOMING something. "Oh, she's really SOMEbody," we say to our friends. "Look at him, he's really SOMEthing, isn't he?" And so we internalize this, desire it for ourselves. For some of us (*my hands are both raised*) this comes at an early age. I don't believe everyone around you does it out of meanness. Usually the adults mean well. "Oh, she's good at such-in-such. She's going to be a so-in-so!" And they say it with such pride and such a glow that you, the child, can't possibly imagine letting them down. So you internalize the so-in-so version of yourself: good at acting? Going to be famous! Good at singing? Going to be famous! Good at art? Going to be the next Picasso! And that becomes the driving force.

Is being famous, being SOMEBODY, wrong in and of itself? Not at all. There are a lot of people out there who wanted to grow up and be a famous something-or-other and made it. But let me tell you from experience, the entertainment industry takes a drive and a determination and a willingness to compromise that I just don't have in me. Oh, now you can do it all on your own and become an Internet star but when I was pursuing a career in music, you did it the hard way. You played gigs at places you'd rather not play. You met with record company execs who cared less about you as a person and more about how much money you could make them before they dropped you went on to the next hot, young thing. Is it still had to "make it"? You betcha and I have friends in the entertainment industry who bust their butts every day to make it in an industry they love. They have my complete an total admiration and support.

I read an article years ago by a woman who always wanted to travel the world. She bought her passport, read magazines about far away places, and yet she never - as of the writing of the article - left the country. She still lived in the town she was born in. One night she asked herself a really hard question: what if this is all there is? She broke down, wept, cleared off her coffee table of travel magazines, tucked her passport away, and poured herself another glass of wine. As the days went on, she started paying attention to what was around her. She noticed shops in her town she'd never visited, noticed places around she'd never been to. She found out her town had a local theatre and started going to plays. She began to enjoy the life she had because she stopped looking outside herself for fulfillment. For her SOMEBODY-ness.

Now don't attack me: I'm not saying that striving for something is wrong. On the contrary. We should all have goals that are attainable and dreams that push us a bit harder than we feel we can go. BUT - and this is a really big but - BUT we have to balance that drive, that hunger, with the life we have right now. If you're life is terrible, by all means, get out! Move, get help, do whatever you can to get out of a dangerous situation. But, if like me and thousands of other people, if you're lament is, "But I'm 40 and I'm still not SOMEbody!" take a step back, sister and re-evaluate how far you've come. 

Perhaps like me you went after fame and fortune and got tired of the cock-and-bull handed to you by the sleeze balls that run the system. Perhaps you tried and tried to BE somebody that you forgot WHO you really are? Perhaps like the woman mentioned above, you wanted something your whole life and yet it never quite happened the way you hoped it would. Take a step back -that's it - now take one more. Ask yourself the hard question: What if this is all there is?

Go ahead and cry. Beat the pillows. Let the childhood dreams of fame and fortune drown in an ocean of a spoiled-brat-tantrum. When you come up from air and your eyes are red and puffy and your head hurts from all the snot, you're going to do something you haven't done in years: you're going to see your life through fresh eyes and I can guarantee you that it's not as bad as you thought.

This world is so caught up in BECOMING something, somebody. What we really need to focus on is BE-ING. BE-ING where we are at this present time. BE-ING kind to ourselves and those around us. BE-ING involved with the world around us, the town, the city, the nature that's presented to us every day that we don't want to see because we're so damned preoccupied with "getting OUT!" Don't get me wrong. I long to travel the world. Always have. I have friends who do it for a living, had people tell me, "Well why don't you just go?" Hmmm, last I checked no one's going to let me on a flight for free and I can't swim the Atlantic just yet. It used to terrify me that THIS was all there was. But you know what? I asked myself the Hard Question (yes, that should be capitalized). I asked myself, "What if this is all there is?" I moved to the city and the area I wanted to be in. Was it easy? Hell, no. It was terribly hard and not at ALL what I'd hoped it would be. There's a lesson in that for another day. But the truth is, that goal I accomplished. That dream has been realized and what I should do instead of trying to find that NEXT brass ring is sit down, pour myself a glass of red, and PAY ATTENTION to what's around me.

So tell me: have you had to ask yourself the Hard Question? Have you ever even thought about it? What dreams did you have when you were little still aren't realized? How many of them were someone else's dreams imposed on you? What if this really is all there is? Are you OK with that? What would it take for you to be OK with that? Don't resign yourself to failure, but do ask yourself if you're too busy BECOMING to actually enjoy the life you've been given rather than learning to BE who your child self, your Deep Self, has wanted you to be all along.

Have a wonderful week and may the Muse be with you,