Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Life Is Art

I think everything in life is art.

what you do (hike. climb. teach).

how you dress (always color. always print).

the way you love someone, and how you talk.

your smile and your personality.

what you believe in and all your dreams.

the way you drink your tea.

how you decorate your home.

or party (with friends).

your grocery list.

the food you make.

and the way you feel
 (isn't that obvious?)

Life is art.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

To Whom I Speak

I used to say everything I felt. Speak before I thought. Express anything I deemed relevant to the conversation, tact or timing be damned.
My boss told me yesterday that she didn’t think I say much at all. I’ve never in my life had anyone say that before. Does it means I’ve finally outgrown the above? (Only took forty years...)
I know better, now, than to verbalize everything I feel or think. Feelings are as fickle as a cat in a room full of mice, thoughts don't always need to be articulated. That’s not to say I don’t trust my emotions or speak them or allow them to wash over me at times, but I contemplate more now, about how and if to express myself. Sometimes to the point of fault, I mull over the right verbiage and time and place to let words break through the internal checks I've set up. Freedom of speech often follows contemplation. Only when I feel it will be meaningful, necessary, or favorably received. No longer do I say something just to fill space or add my two cents. Sometimes there is a heaviness to speaking. Silence sometimes means there is something better to listen to. 

Up until a few days ago, I believed I was holding my tongue because, for so many years in my marriage, I felt my opinion wasn’t respected, desired, or solicited. I realized today this is not true. Throughout that whole troubling time I still had people I confided in, and deeply. It is not because I have nothing to say that is ever the cause of my silence, rather it is a response to whoever it is I’m speaking with. How someone reacts to me directly affects how I communicate with them. People who make fun of my interests or viewpoints won’t hear about them again. People that aren’t interested in them will be met with pleasantries thereafter. Once that happens, the person needs to notice it (which rarely happens), and invest effort in a bit of prying to get me to open myself up again.

I have been thinking lately about the people in my life and how I respond to them, mostly because of a few things that have happened this week that all deal with things people have said to me.

* I had a friend text me and tell me my mind is my best asset.
*I had a coworker confide in me about something painful – a woman I barely know, but she chose me to talk to.
*A friend texted me with a simple statement and request: I miss your blogging. Write for me.
*My boss - who is not only the best person I can ever imagine working for, but is also a confidante, cares so much that she listens, gives her opinion, and watches out for my well-being - said to me, “I know you haven’t been happy. And I know it’s not just due to the stress of your recent car accident. It’s because your needs aren’t being met.”  
Interesting how some people discern things that haven’t even seeped into your own consciousness. I'm not saying she's right, but it's caused me to contemplate. And if she's right, the needs she speaks of are not physical. They have to do with how well known I am by the people I spend my time with.  
What I want is to spend time with people that really appreciate the time, like the friend who texted me the other night saying he was frustrated because he’d been really looking forward to getting together with me – this after circumstances thwarted our plans to do so (we did manage a couple days later).
What I want is people when, given the time, fill it as full as they possibly can with words and conversation so rewarding it's like feasting on a delicious meal - one  that has nothing to do with leaving your stomach full but rather delights your senses so much that you can’t possibly believe there is anything else out there more satisfying. I had dinner last week with such a person. We shared a meal in town, and as we were picking through textured nuts, exotic greens, and Oriental flavors, we covered everything - relationships, hobbies, food, travel, photography, nature, religion, and politics  - usually a topic I stay FAR away from, but with this friend, it was not a debate or boxing match, it is simply another thing to flesh out. The conversation was so good I didn’t want it to end. Reason: My brain and soul and spirit are satiated at the feasting table of intellectual intimacy.

What I want are people who provide the opposite rise of a verbal fertile valley, so that the place between two intelligent people - where ideas and thoughts and personalities and the very integral being of a person - can erupt with growth and conversations bounce off of one another. I have no desire to be a soft landing for someone, where I simple absorb what they’re saying, nor a single mountainside they can speak to and hear nothing back from me other than an echo of their own thoughts. 

So this is my note of appreciation for the people who speak in and to and with my life. I mentioned the few people from last week, but there are so.many.more. 
One closing thought. I’ve been texting about this today with a good friend of mine. Here is just one thing he said. I think his words prove my point. "You are intellectually adventurous, and the adventure is cooperative. It’s infectious. And your appetite for understanding things seems limitless."
It's not that I had nothing to say all those years I was married. It's that it became, at some point, easier to not talk because of the way I was responded to. Eventually only surface conversation reigned, because deeper desires and thoughts of the heart were not received or returned. We all have things to say, there are just some people better at being shared with than others. People who listen. People who respond in a way that let's us know we're valued. People who add to the conversation rather than pull from it, making it more like a game of racquetball - volleys and lobs back and forth; an engaging, constant chasing of thoughts - than one where there is a solitary player and the rest of us are the audience.
Lesson Learned: 
The act of telling is not a hard thing. I share very freely with certain {most} people in my life. I, we all, long to know and be known. It's not about having something or nothing to contribute. It's about finding kindred spirits who understand the language your mind speaks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There Was a Dawn

I wrote this yesterday for my dear friend Stephanie. Though I wrote it for her, there are others it makes me think of. Others who have fought or are fighting battles - some emotional, some physical, some in the military sense of the word - others who might just appreciate it or relate somehow, for none of us is immune. We all have a battle at some point or another.

There was a dawn that called me forth
And hurriedly I replied.
Duty called with urgent voice.
It wasn’t that there was no choice,
But opened were my eyes.

There was a morn that saw the steps
That led to a demise.
Yet the death of what we leave behind
Is often birth of another kind -
A blessing in disguise.

There was a noon that saw the sun
Roll back behind a cloud.
No view ahead was afforded by
The menacing and darkened sky
Yet fast I held my ground.

There was a day that watched me rise
To battle enemies that tried
To fight me off and take me down,
To crash to earth or at sea drown,
As I fought on borrowed time.

There was an eve that threw light upon
My drive. Never to be outdone
It mattered not how long it took,
Nor how severely my resolve shook,
Just that I had battled and had won.

There was a sunset that led me to grace
For at the battle’s end
I flew back home to the embrace
Of those who had the power to erase
The fear, and to my wounds would tend.

There was a night that gave me rest
With loved ones, family, friends.
I slept long and hard, dreaming deep
Of how the Lord my soul does keep -
My Defense until the end.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pushing Boundaries

The generous morning sun brings out the contours of the mountains 93,000,000 miles below, but it is a chilly morning. The wind blows. I forgot my long pants, but it doesn't matter. I won't be needing them. We have headed south, and it will soon be warm. 

There is nothing external to indicate that this day will be different than any others. Internally, however, I've decided to push boundaries, climb some things that are a little over my ability. This is not easy for me. I am not a risk-taker by nature. I am a firstborn. I like to play by the rules. Keep everybody happy, including myself. Keeping myself alive is also a plus.

This is my fourth climb of the day. I'd already led two, TRing one. This is another lead. It is a very easy start. About 1/3 of the way up, it gets a little scarier. By the time I reach the roof on the right in this photo, my fingers are sore (that's Shelf Road limestone for you), my body is tired from my three previous climbs, and the holds on this part of the route are virtually non-existent.

Funny, because other places I climb have small holds. Eleven Mile Canyon is my favorite, and I thrive on it. But not at Shelf. And the last 15 feet of this climb are the most difficult. I tether in at the base of the roof and rest for a while. My arms are so pumped I have veins popping out that I've never seen before. Resting helps me gather my wits, slow my breathing, and calm down a little, but it does nothing for the fact that as soon as I start up again, so does all that. I wonder if I'm going to be able to finish. 

Right at the top by the anchor I slip my arm into the crack. But there's nothing to hold onto in there, so I tentatively grab onto the hope that my arm isn't going to slip out, causing me to fall {screaming, I'm sure} for more feet than I want to think about. I've been scared on climbs before, but for some reason scared feels different on every climb. This isn't a "I'm too tired for this," scared or an "I want to quit" scared or a "I'm ready to get off" scared. This is a "I can't get my mind or my body to do what I need them to do in order to pull this off," scared. I've had times when it was one or the other. But both? Not that I can recall.

But my arm stays put. Miraculous. I anchor in, trying not to move too much and slip.

I get down and promptly take a nap while the other two in my group continue to climb. I am done for a while. Too much adrenaline. Though I do TR another route later in the afternoon.

Now, days later, all I can think about is going back and doing it again. Because I didn't nail it. And I don't like that.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes, when we doubt ourselves physically and mentally, the strength is there. We just have to go for it and watch it emerge, almost as if from a distance.

Then, once we're in and safe, it really is alright to take a little nap.  :-)

Thursday, November 1, 2012


She loves words.
They touch her when she uses them well, and when others do the same. 
Words have depth, and thus she responds to them deeply. Innately. Concretely.

She loves what words do.
How they make her feel, how available they are, how it feels like they belong to her.
They overtake her sometimes. Leave her speechless. Sneak up on her unawares and make her head twirl.
Words like penultimate, parsimonious, enigma.

She loves how they surround her,
consume her,
ignite her,
permeate her,
satiate her, please her.
Give her security, give her confidence, give her wings.

Not everyone notices words.
And that, she feels, is a very sad loss for them.
Words deserved to be noticed.
Words like languish, enveloping, champagne. 

The selection of music on her iPod is highly eclectic.
For it's not the genre, nor tempo or timbre that drives her tastes. It is words.
If a song tells a good story, she cannot resist.

It must have taken hold when she was a child
for by the time she was a young teen she had notebooks full.
Published for the first time in high school - poetry anthologies and letters to the editor of her small-town newspaper. Then, in college, a professor who ran a small publication ministry published a paper she wrote for class.
There have been a few other occasions in print. Just a few.
Though the occasions have thrilled her, "becoming a writer" was not something she ever sought.
She didn't need to become what she has always been.
Forum nor monetary recompense ever mattered.
Only that she treat words with the respect they deserve,
these 26
s y m b o l s
that, when united, form living, breathing melodies.
Words like symphony, breathe, starlit, sigh. 

But lately, she finds herself in uncharted territory. Many times lately, her mouth has failed her.
Why - when so often words like "sanctity" and "unfettered" and "harbinger" flow like fresh water from her brain and off her tongue without so much as a conscious thought - why the struggle lately? The words are almost there, but not quite.

They've gone into hiding.
She can see them, because they peek around the corner of her mind, yet she cannot capture them. She goes to them, tries desperately to pull the words forth from the recesses into which they have tucked themselves, but they are steadfast..

They've gone into hiding.
Not because they're afraid of being used, but because they feel so inadequate.

All she has to do is step into his presence and she finds herself a bit tongue tied.
Odd, since she's so comfortable around him.
When he sends her poetry, or recites it, or really, says just about anything, their inadequacy is obvious. How is there a response to such things of life?
When he asks her to tell her how she feels, how is she supposed to find words for all of that?
When she asks, "What should I wear?" and he says, "Eyes smile smarts compassion wit wonder understanding kindness strength faith fun passion intensity authenticity," is there anything to do but smile?

So no wonder.

No wonder the words just sit inside her, doing nothing.

For the first time in a very {very} long time, it is not the words she is using, but the words being used that delight her. It's not that she can't think of what to say. It's that she enjoys being quiet and hearing someone else use them well.
It's like being under water or high in the blue sky -
everything looks the same so how can she describe where she is?
But nothing feels the same so why can't she just say it already!?

There are few things which move her.
Music. Nature. Water.  Color.


Words move her even when they fail her.
For although they are a renewable resource,
sometimes there just aren't any.
And maybe those times mean that
she is being led by something intangible to something intangible. Something so full of meaning
there is no way to describe it.
And that is OK.

Sometimes silence says more than words.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012



This is what 41 looks like.

Not for everyone, but for me.

It's odd to think that I've now, as a friend pointed out, had two birthdays in Colorado.

And I've never been so glad to be in a place in my life.

Both geographically and spiritually.

I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life.

Both physically and emotionally.

The celebrating started over a week ago, when my dad, who's always elk hunting on my birthday, took me to a jazz concert at Stargazers.

Heaven, that was.
Live music? Yes please.
It really doesn't matter what kind, but there is just something about jazz...

I heard from my brother a few minutes ago, and he and my dad both got an elk this year. That's birthday gift enough for me, although my brother was kind enough to send a card, too. With a penny in it. That was his way of responding to my request for him to "just send cash."

My mom's birthday was a few days ago, so my boys and I went and spent some time with her over the weekend.

My boys, of course, had surprises for me.
The best from the elder - a note in my lunch today (he made lunches last night) that said, "Have a good day!" It was a totally spontaneous act of love. The best kind.
And from the younger - a handmade "Big hug."

When I commented on its large size he responded, "Of course it's huge. It was a big project."

And then my friend Kim Myles, interior designer extraordinaire, posted a picture of my dresser on Facebook today. 

A few of my students brought me gifts today. A bouquet (um, the colors! Love!) and - oh happy day - an apple. Many of them were stunned when I told them my age. I don't know why...when I was their age 40 seemed ancient. One girl asked me what kind of lotion I used so she could go buy some. She's ten! Haha!

And of course there have been more phone calls and texts and Facebook messages than I think I can handle! My mom gave me some $ (an obscene amount, really) and even my favorite aunt stuck a $20 in the card she sent me, which I think is hilarious but just might be the reason she's my favorite aunt. *wink*

Last year on my birthday I had just arrived in Colorado.
Had just made tremendous changes in my life.
I went for a 6 mile hike, solo, because it was exactly what I wanted to do and there was no one to stop me. And I had a wonderful time.
This year, however, I'm feeling quite the opposite, so I'm celebrating with friends.
Next Saturday a slew of old friends, mostly from the "school" walk of life, will celebrate with me.
A high school English teacher.
A friend from 8th grade.
A girlfriend I grew up with (who I have a picture of at my 9th (or so) birthday party).
Two college roommates. We all went to school in Minnesota together. One is from CO but has been in Minnesota for the last 20ish years and moved back a few months ago; the other is from Minnesota but moved out here after college. She's spent the last 5 years in Brazil, and also just moved back a few months ago.
We won't do much. Just dinner and drinks. And hopefully more laughter than we'll know what to do with.

So the party will continue long after today.

I cannot end this post without letting the world know what the card said that my mom bought me. I love it.

"Even before she arrives, you want your daughter's world to be perfect.
You want her to be happy and surrounded by love.
You want her to be sure of herself, gentle but strong, with nothing to worry about.
But real life's not like that.
The years come and go, bringing her trials and triumphs, joys and sorrows.
And you still want her world to be perfect.
But you can see that she is sure of herself, surrounded by love, and gentle but strong.
And you can see that she is who she is
because life has challenged her to grow and become more amazing every year."

Thanks, Mom. It's true.

Life's a party. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

To Envy the Trees

I spent last Saturday in bed. For hours. I caught the worst bug ever but kept working and was paying for it by the weekend. I didn't sleep much, but I was too tired and unmotivated to do anything but lay there. However, something pleasant that happened a few days before was keeping me company, so it wasn't completely useless; rather more like a whole day in a bed of eider-down thoughts.

On Sunday, rested up and having sickness-induced cabin fever, I had to get out. The trees are turning so rapidly and soon all the color will be gone. It will fall from the trees like day-after holiday decorations and lay on the ground like a carpet slowly fading in the sun. I needed to get to it before that happened.

The colors of Autumn. Why do we drive to them and walk among them like this season will never happen again? It happens every year.

Because they are dying, perhaps? 

I don't think so.

They may be shedding, but they are not dying. Those trees are as alive as they ever were, though from all outward appearances, they are losing touch with us. It is only for a time. Sometimes the ushering in of the beauty of life necessitates an appearance of death first.

The trees are dropping the old, and wouldn't we all like to be able to do that so easily? Let our problems, and those character traits we want to see diminish to make more room for the favorable ones, flutter to the ground like last year's leaves so the new can spring forth unhindered.

They are preparing for hibernation. Except instead of wrapping themselves in a blanket of warmth, they throw off their covers and become vulnerable in the coldest of months. A display of fortitude to be coveted.

And let's be honest. Don't we sometimes wish we could hibernate for a few months? 

And are they not just a bit like we are, those leaves that flutter to the ground? Some a bit stubborn, perhaps?

There are millions of them...


Yet not one quite like another.


No, I think it is not to bid them farewell that we flock to them as birds flying south.

Perhaps we go because we envy them, without even knowing.

Friday, October 5, 2012


It has happened now twice
in the past month. And these run-ins seem to
have, in their plan for me, nothing concise.
Rather, I have been stunned into review
of what I want in life.

I’m not unfamiliar
with how contemplation works. It is a
large, empty room. Those who knock can be sure
of no certain answer, only delay.
Decision is a blur.

To think the answers will
come to me if I sit in silence long
enough is to forget that the standstill
is self-inflicted. Because all along
life is ours to fulfill.

The answer is not “out
there” in a nebulous realm waiting for
us to call for it. It is not without
but within, although often we ignore
its silent, subtle shout.

But now that I have seen
the path which has emerged in front of me
I must take it, though most is still unseen.
The bar has been raised so high I can’t see
it, but oh! how it gleams,

Enticing me upward.
So the climb to reach it has begun. No
longer content with just going forward
upward must also be the way...but no,
The direction preferred.

I know there will be tears.
Not just mine, though my eyesight will be blurred.
But I cannot let them distract like mirrors
because inaction doused in pretty words
Will only keep me here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Year

One year ago today I arrived in Colorado. 

One year ago today I started getting back to where I was supposed to be, in more ways than one. 

And in that year, here are just a few highlights.

I took a 4-day ice climbing trip to Ouray. 

I started outdoor rock climbing (after years of doing it indoors). I've climbed approximately 100 routes since February. I've climbed in Eldorado Canyon, Boulder Canyon, Clear Creak Canyon, a couple places near Estes Park, Cheyenne Canyon, the Garden of the Gods, Eleven Mile Canyon (still my favorite), Golden Gate State Park, Devil's Head, Turkey Rocks, and Shelf Road. I took a 5-day climbing trip around Colorado this past summer.

Three of my closest friends from Texas came to visit me. Stephanie and Janet in July. Chrissy left yesterday.

I got to see my BFF from high school this summer, for about 5 hours. Such a short amount of time, we didn't even take a picture. This one from a couple summers ago will have to do. 
Speaking of high school - I've reconnected with some other "old" friends...

I jumped out of an airplane...  

I've hiked about 150 miles. I recorded only 139 of those, but there have been hikes in and out of climbing places, so I'm estimating. 
Longest hike: 23 miles to the Bottomless Pit with Brent this past summer. 
(Tho this is at Pancake Rocks).

I just want to say, I've loved my first year back "home." 
But I also want to keep it real. I hear complaints occasionally that Facebook is a place where everyone puts on their best face, shows only what they want people to see.
I see it a little bit differently.
I spend a lot of time focusing on the good in my life, because I don't see the point in focusing on the bad. There has been plenty of that. I HATED my first two jobs here. Getting up every day was a mind-numbing, soul-draining chore. I missed the boys' first day of school this year because I had to work. Even now, I am rarely home to see them off to school. I had $6 in my bank account last time I got paid. I need to repair a bunch of stuff on my van.

See what I mean? But why dwell on that stuff? Although I know some people that do. In a one-week period this month I had two people pretty much unable to hold a conversation with me because they couldn't think of anything positive to say about their lives.

So I'll keep focusing on the positives, thankyouverymuch.
Just give me blue skies...