storm behind us now

As I sit here in Colorado on my daughter’s front porch writing out these thoughts, my husband and friends in Oklahoma are hunkered down beneath a lead apron of a summer storm. In fact, also last night I was out for an evening run and got caught in a rainstorm, but it was gentle and delicious. Not really much of a storm. Still, that synchronicity again.

On our long drive from Oklahoma to Colorado a few days ago, Jocelyn and I enjoyed mostly spectacular weather. We got so lucky, in fact, that both of us commented throughout our journey how nice it was. The triple-digit heat was on pause, mercifully. Easy cloud cover shaded her SUV. Barely any wind to knock us around. We were having fun and making great time.

And then the weather changed.

storm snap

Somewhere just past the Kansas-Colorado border, the previously tranquil clouds swelled into dark, massive, churning things that stood not a little threatening over our path. Sunshine streamed through and against them in metallic opposition, but the translucent white had turned gray and murky then nearly black. Rain fell in unbelievably huge drops, pelting us, and then we heard hail. Not much, in fact not enough to do any damage, but it was a noisy interruption to our day of spectacular travel weather. Had we been easily shaken travelers, the noise would have been scary.

On that straight stretch of highway with vast grazing and farmland on both sides, we drove steadily. Stopping was both unnecessary and foolish. Also- we could gaze not far ahead and plainly see abundant sunshine again and dry asphalt roads. The storm raging overhead was angry but small and unmoving. Temporary. We only had to get through it.

It got worse before it got better, of course. By the time we reached the far edge of the storm shadow, tiny hail was falling plentifully and we had seen several mercury threads of lightning.

Then, in a moment, we were out. Back in the sun. Not a drop of rain still falling. The highway shoulders were overflowing with gallons and gallons of those tiny white hailstones, and this stretched on for about a quarter of a mile. It made me do a double take, to make sure, but yes- the storm was over. This carpet of hail was proof it had swept through, but all we had to do was keep the windshield wipers going a moment longer to clear our vision a little and continue forward.

This little scene unfolded during one of my driving shifts. Joc was sitting next to me with her sweet, energetic puppy on her lap. I looked at them and felt so much love and simultaneously noticed an absence of fear. I felt as calm as the skies now looked. I checked the rear view mirror and saw that black-and-blue storm still raging behind us, appearing to do much more damage than it had the power to do.

That little storm did happen; it was not imagined. But it’s behind us now and we came out of it perfectly safe and happy with a million things to celebrate and an exciting path in front of us.

Lots of storms do very real damage, of course. Nobody from Oklahoma (or Colorado!) would dare say otherwise. But plenty are brief and gentle, too. Sometimes instead of stopping in your tracks just to get beat up for no reason, it’s best to move steadily forward on your chosen path. Let the storm rage if it must but keep your eyes on the abundant sunshine coming right up. Move toward that until your storm is far behind you.

“Birds sing after a storm;
why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight
in whatever sunlight remains to them?”
~Rose Kennedy
XOXOXOXO

the actual feeling of the mountains and one amazing young lady

Estes Park, Colorado, July 2016

Arrival:

This is the third time I have visited her in her mountain home, and each time as my vehicle enters the shadows and begins threading up and around the curving roads I experience a familiar chain of sensations. The move from valley to mountains is all at once physical, emotional, spiritual, and something completely new, like an echo of a recurring dream I had throughout most of my childhood and sometimes even still. (The dream was about God, stillness, a giant wooden mallet, a hair or maybe it was a thread, and violent spinning until stillness was reached again. It was about chaos and safety and love, I now know.)

In a crescendo, the slate-and-soil, tree-crusted hills bow down to vaulted craggy skyscrapers jutting up into the vacant sky barely fifteen feet from the two-lane road. Boulders of all sizes, spilled some other day probably long ago but not necessarily, sit in heaps, punctuating the clear, rushing, white water river. The river curves down and alongside, behind, and in gentle loops near our ascending path, achieving a ribbon dance between that cold energetic snow melt rife with fish and this man made pavement dotted with people like me. We are all seeking either solitude or reunion; but everyone gets a heavy dusting of mountain magic.

I feel embraced. Every time. The earth and rock on both sides of the road pulse with loving energy. They beg to be touched, explored, admired. The trees offer whispering perfume and welcoming, intimate secrets. The sky- different every time, this time as red as coals!- hovers a little pridefully, crowning all this beauty with still more beauty. Only one structure really interrupts the mountainous skyline: The Stanley Hotel. And it belongs here. It is perfect.

I feel deeply energized, quite against my will or at least with no effort made to feel this way: Something ignites behind the lowest part of my rib cage and then my legs feel bouncy. I start remembering lost loved ones like my Grandma Dunaway who loved to hunt lichen, mushrooms, and wildflowers. She did her magic in rural Oklahoma, but I believe she would have loved Colorado too. I start remembering (with excitement! not defeat) my own forgotten dreams and goals. It’s a wonderful and much needed re-connection with myself.

The physical sense of vibration or humming is very real too. The mountains pulse, and it drums up something vibrant inside me. I cannot wait to escape the car to sort of thrust myself onto the face of the Earth. The hum is a clear invitation and a powerful antidote to frayed nerves. Comforting. All the sights and sounds and smells immediately begin filling my empty places.

Morning:

Sitting on the bare wooden steps at the front of her tiny (perfect!) cabin, I face north. We are nearly to the top of a steep hill, and the mountains on the opposite side of town face me. They glow from the side with this brilliant, stinging daybreak. Shadows cast off to the west. The “Twin Owls” rock formation presides lovingly.

Behind me is the top of her hill, a wild little space where the paved road ends. When I visited in April we had enjoyed a surprise late-winter storm. So that precipice was deeply blanketed in soft, glittering, blue-white snow. The trees were tall Narnia imposters. I was spellbound. We bundled up and hiked in the cold and ate donuts then hiked some more.

Today I sit here gulping strong coffee, wearing thin cotton pajamas, sweating just a little, and that same hill is every shade of arid and now thickly blanketed with seedy, prairie-like grass. The trees remember their Narnia showcase but now are a vibrant green. Fluffy pine bouquets whispering that familiar perfume.

She is evolving and vibrating in her own right, and she is as strong and beautiful as the mountians and as alive as the snowmelt river. My first baby, a woman now and a force of nature.

Jocelyn, age 20, with her puppy Bridget, age one. Almost. xoxo Two of the climbing-est girls in the world.
Jocelyn, age 20, with her puppy Bridget, age one. Almost. xoxo Two of the climbing-est girls in the world.

I breathe it all in deeply, pressing into my cells every vibration I can locate. Remembering, renewing, dreaming, and giving thanks until the words run dry.

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”
~Tennessee Williams
XOXOXOXO

promise of happiness (book review)

Friends, I have a piece of fiction to review for you today. And yeah I know this is posting on Sunday and I claim to plan book reviews for Saturdays, but, well, these days I do what I want. Let’s proceed.

A couple of weeks ago I craved a bit of summertime distraction served up on paper with ink, not electronics. Something I could drag out to the deck or even into the pool should the mood strike, as it often does. A quick trip to the Apartment book shelves produced exactly such a treasure, and one with an attractive jacket to boot.

 

http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-promise-of-happiness-9781596913790/
Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright, Bloomsbury

Truth? I narrowed down my choices that day based first on titles and plot summaries then on book jackets. Because, as noted above, I do what I want. It’s a nice design, right? That old admonition says to not judge a book by its cover; it says nothing of initially selecting the book. Let’s never be ashamed of loving book art for the sake of book art.

Spoiler Alert: This design hints at stained glass, which plays an important role in the saga contained inside.

Okay. Proceeding.

********************

The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright was published in 2005 to plenty of acclaim, though at that time I was deaf to it. In fact, how this novel landed on our Apartment book shelves I cannot even remember, but I am glad to have somehow received it and now am passing the book along to my friend Kate.

This book proved to be a nice, deep, cool-water summertime read. Not too difficult, not too scandalous, but still very adult. It immediately reminded me of a kinder, gentler Goldfinch because of the art discussions and partial location in New York City but without the pervasive depravity. Maybe just the hint of it. Neither sweeping epic nor paralyzing still life, The Promise of Happiness manages to span several decades while immersing the reader in moment after believable, relatable, seductive moment. The writing has weight and lightness all at once. An absolutely wonderful combination. It earns five of five stars if you appreciate language and prose as much as or more than a story worth recapping. Still, the story itself is pretty great. It’s a dressed up portrait of a snapshot, if that’s possible. A well told explanation of a moment in time for one English family, including just the right amount of historical flashbacks, for context. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. The characters, the meandering paths they take toward and away from each other, the primarily English seaside setting, the tasteful dabs of sex and scandal, the elastic timeline, all of it was fun to read. But what I loved most was the writing itself and the depth of human understanding it serves up. Cartwright spent a great deal of energy exploring deep layers of thought and introspection for each of the characters, the members of the Judd family. This end product was thought-provoking and comforting.

Cartwright trades narrative frequently and smoothly, dancing all over that elastic timeline with changing voices (the story belongs to the entire Judd family, not just one member), blending action and memory even within the same paragraph without sounding unnatural. It is a pleasure to read. He also achieves seamlessly what so many writers struggle to do, often with stilted effect: He tells what is happening and pairs it with the deeper meaning. He offers the action along with the echo. And it never feels forced. It is, page after page, really satisfying to read:

She feels a rush of affection for her mother, who sat in the court dutifully and visited that hellhole of a prison, and suffered as she waited in the contact reception with people so strange to her they might really have come from another universe. Their bodies twisted with agony. And now she’s planning the wedding. The flowers are going to perfume what has gone before. 

Do you ever read a story and choose a favorite character, or feel that the author is urging you to choose a certain one as your favorite? I do, and I did with this book too. But the story evolved in surprising ways and I wound up changing my opinions by the end. In fact at a certain point I had to suspend all kinds of judgements. Very much like in real life. Anyway. The characters are well constructed, mightily nourished by life experiences, and so real I could smell their perfume or guess their clothing by about midway through the book. Good stuff. 

Let’s mention once more stained glass art as an engine for the story. It provides both the backdrop and the catalyst for so much, first of all; but it also becomes a vivid metaphor for the Judd family’s history: Brokenness, light, imitation, strength and fragility, the quality of change with the passage of time, prophecy fulfilled, hope justified, all of it. Art as a spiritual experience and family life as a human experience are the same thing here.

And then there is, as always, the power of the mind:

And now, because there is, as she has discovered, only a light mist settled between the real and the imagined, she is free at last. She’s wearing her spotted shorts, and it’s this sentimental detail that is so convincing.

I had never heard of Justin Cartwright before reading The Promise of Happiness, but after enjoying his writing style so much I will now be looking for more of his work. Really nice, friends. I hope you find this and give it some attention. If you do, let’s chat! I have so much to think-out-loud-about regarding the art metaphor and the complicated nature of a long-term marriage, keeping a family, etcetera. 

You know, life.

Thanks as always for stopping by, friends! What’s on your night stand lately? Or what do you drag outside to the pool?

“Dad doesn’t want to be happy, Soph.
There are some people who don’t believe
in the promise of happiness.”
~Charlie Judd in The Promise of Happiness,
Justin Carwright
XOXOXOXO

 

we come together cause opposites attract

We have all heard that opposites attract. If you are friends of mine and my husband’s in real life, then this idea has probably occurred to you about us as a couple. In many ways he and I are not just a little different on some points but are in fact polar opposites; and while this brews up occasional conflict, big picture our union is well harmonized. A good blend of complimentary traits and strengths. And as love stories go, the conflict between us tends to evolve into really funny stories for the ages. At least we think so.

Today is our fifteenth wedding anniversary, so to celebrate we have compiled a list of exactly that many ways we might as well come from different planets. All of these entries are sanctioned by my wonderful guy, lest you worry. : )

2010 us in tampa
Tampa, Florida, 2010, the night of the mariachi band incident. See below.

Fifteen ways Handsome and I are exact opposites:

  1. One of us is mathematically minded and the other literary, yet both of us have creative streaks.
  2. Books versus movies. (That age-old conversation about weak movies made from excellent novels has fueled much eye rolling and deep-breathing between us.)
  3. One of us is a runner. One of us thinks heavy weights is the way to go. Pretty sure you can solve this mystery.
  4. One of us is considered OCD about most stuff in life. One of us is not. You guess which is which.
  5. One of us LOOOOOVVVES mariachi bands so much. And then one of us breaks out in hives when they approach our table even if it is at a romantic anniversary dinner on the ocean at sunset and his wife is so happy about it she is giggling and requesting songs. Then the one who breaks out in hives tells the “horrible” mariachi band story for years to come to anyone who will listen, as if his wife had tried to poison his food that night. And they never get to listen to a mariachi band again. Ever.
  6. Speaking of restaurants, one of us is keen to try new places and explore a fair amount while the other is happier sticking with known commodities. Or eating at home, even. Happily, the known commodities are all excellent, and the open-minded diner also loves to cook.
  7. One of us could happily eat red meat every day, in fact he feels best when he does; the other of us could thrive on fruits and veggies, especially if eggs are available here and there. Luckily she has a garden and chickens.
  8. She is a brainstorming, daydreaming planner who sometimes has trouble getting projects off the ground, while he is a fiercely action-oriented problem solver. He just dives in and gets it done, sometimes without even bothering to measure, which is interesting because if you are taking notes you might wonder how this works with him being OCD. He is even willing to invest in luxuries if they solve problems. Still, he always budgets and does scrutinous cost analysis. Always. And while she doesn’t always budget, she also doesn’t spend much beyond necessities. See? Complimentary.
  9. Along these lines, one of us tends to gives strongly worded advice and offer action-oriented solutions while the other usually feels led to be a listener or sounding board for friends. Hopefully, and we really mean this, both approaches can be useful from time to time. We love our friends so much and want everyone to be happy.
  10. Our marriage has a love-hate relationship with strong fragrance which extends to perfume, herbs, cooking spices, and cleaning products.
  11. We have almost as many books as we do toys from childhood. Again, you guess who collects what. I should mention here that we both love random, eccentric arts and crafts and that filling our home with wild color has been a fantastic joint effort.
  12. When we go to the movies, a rare treat these days because our own TV room is supremely comfortable, one of us feels deeply that the previews and even the Dolby surround sound teaser are important parts of the theater experience. They drum up excitement and make the buttered popcorn taste better. One of us think those twenty minutes are wasted. “Let’s get to the main feature, already!” (In recent months our views have migrated to center on this.)
  13. Paper versus electronics. Electronics versus paper. This particular debate makes its way to everything in modern life. #amiright Honestly the amount of spiral notebooks I have teetering on shelves throughout the farm is a little embarrassing. He has given up on trying to convert me to digital word documents. Wait a minute. Babe. Is that why you encourage me to blog??
  14. In traffic, one of us is like a shark in that he must constantly be moving, even if it means taking an alternate route. He cannot stand to sit and will rarely abide driving behind another vehicle. His wife is happy waiting and also doesn’t mind driving at the back of a line of cars. No problemo, really. Maybe a mariachi band will wander by.
  15. Reese’s versus Almond Joy. Kind of sums it all up.

I love you, babe. I love you so much. You are handsome of course but also just an amazing man. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you better and better each of these fifteen years. Thank you for loving me so well, for putting up with my oddities, for making me feel pretty great about stuff in general, and also for raising the bar in so many ways. I believe we are an excellent match and that life is better together. I hope you do too. Always Now and Forever. xoxo

Okay friends, spill it! Tell me some way that you and your One True Love are polar opposites. I would love to hear!!

XOXOXOXO

 

 

kicking off anniversary stay-cation 2016

Hello friends! The Man and I are stay-cation-ing this week!! It’s our wedding anniversary again, fifteen years on Thursday, and to celebrate we are spending day after day in a mix of local exploration and indulging in the farm as a HOME-tel. : )) The best of both worlds, we like to think. The food is so good. The weather is ideal. And precious few business obligations are breaking up this long stretch of freedom.

deck blooms

We are keeping in close touch with my family and visiting Grandpa Stubbs in the hospital, and thankfully recent turns have been really positive. He is doing so much better. Many thanks to those of you who have sent sweet notes and promised to pray. xoxo

Saturday morning I spent a couple of hours alone in the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge and just sort of reordering, hard-boiling, and pre-chopping everything for our week ahead. I drank copious of amounts of very dark coffee with only heated half and half, no sugar. The prep work created quite a heap of scraps for the chickens and geese. They were duly appreciative, and I came inside with eleven hot, heavy, pastel-shelled eggs.

coffee and chicken bowl

While working slowly and steadily I indulged in a few Ted talks, and this one in particular held my attention. It’s about the super-conscious, which is different than my normal appetite for matters of the sub-conscious. Really interesting. The lecture holds some nice tandems with the Law of Attraction, Biblical concepts, and my personal philosophies in general. Very good listen if you are so inclined.

bw weedeating with comet and blue sky

Handsome spent that slice of time outdoors, mowing with his new (used) John Deere and weed-eating every straight edge on the farm. Also some curved ones. He also replaced the pump on our swimming pool and cleaned it to a perfect Caribbean blue. These easy Saturday morning tasks helped us get on the right foot for stay-cation.

Tomorrow I get to see my sports doctor again. Hopefully he can help me with some frustrating knee pain and ankle swelling and get me on a path to higher mileage, whether that includes marathon training (starts theoretically next Monday!!) or just more running. Fingers crossed.

ankle snap

How are you? What’s going on in your world? Are you guarding your heart from the ugliest and worst but still finding ways to engage the world and embrace all of our fractured places? I am privately making a conscious effort to not see the sarcasm and the bitterness all over social media, only to seek information and cultivate compassion. Peace has to be more than a mood, right? More than an idea or a stock image? But still it all begins with our thoughts. And it all is fueled by what we allow our eyes to see.

Okay. I am on to date night. One of many this week. Wishing you so much Love and a thousand wishes granted.

XOXOXOXO