Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Disappearing Free Time

Over the week-end, one of my retreat planning friends turned to me and said, "So what do you do in your free time?"

My first thought was, what free time?  And then my next thought was that my free time activities sound so dull:  writing, reading, cooking (at times when my kitchen hasn't been removed from the house).  Most weeks, I also do some abstract work with my Copic Sketch markers.  Here's a recent one that I like:

As I was thinking about space, I was trying to make little round shapes that look like planets.  But I was also thinking about interior space.

I don't do as much with fiber art as I once did.  I don't do as much with anything as I once did.  I really am spending more of my waking hours at work.  If I'm not at the office in my day job, I'm also teaching online, which requires huge chunks of time during most weeks.

That's why I'm grateful for time away.  On Friday, it was very warm in the cabin after I arrived at Lutheridge.  So I spent the afternoon taking a very long walk.  And then I sat on the porch in a rocking chair and sketched:

I thought I didn't like the image, but I looked again this morning and was pleasantly surprised.

I've spent the week-end reading a wonderful book, The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin, which I may write more about later.

I heard Jane Fonda talk about her life on yesterday's edition of All Things Considered.  She talked about how many people have lots of experiences, but few people contemplate the meaning of it all.  But lately, I've been wondering if I need to have more experiences--but part of that may be the all-consuming nature of these last rounds of home repairs.

But let me think about the giant leaps we took in terms of home repair last week:  the fence passed final inspection, the problematic self-piercing valve was removed, all of the flooring on hand was installed, the kitchen floor is more level than it's been since we've moved in--no wonder I'm a bit distracted.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Travel Inspirations

Yesterday, I finished writing the blog post and decided to try my hand at flash fiction, a super short story.  I had the idea on Friday as I traveled, and after letting it percolate, yesterday I decided to give it a try.  The story came in at just under 500 words.

My spouse and I have been talking about how much we like the empty parts of the house, and on Friday, as we discussed kitchen cabinets, we talked about how much bigger the kitchen looks without anything in it.

As I walked around Lutheridge on Friday, I had an image of a woman whose spouse dies when the old kitchen has been demo'ed, but before the kitchen cabinets have been ordered.  She decides to keep the kitchen empty. 

As I continued to walk, I had a vision of the ending, where she breaks the china.  She's the type of woman who has several china cabinets, because she's inherited so much family china, in addition to her own.

Now I will go back and add a few details here and there.  What fun!

I also have a vision for a poem:  Noah, after the flood.  Noah looks at the wrecked landscape, thinking about how we long for a fresh start, never thinking about the mucking out process that must happen with every fresh start.

It's been wonderful being away--I can't always travel when I feel the need for inspiration, for a different way of looking at things, but when I can, I'm happy about the ideas that come.  I can't always pull them off, but it's good to have some fresh ideas.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Retreat Planning Wrap Up

Yesterday was a great day of retreat planning.  For those of you who have never done this kind of work, you may imagine that we sit there and discuss the schedule or what we plan to offer.  While we do continue to do some fine tuning of the schedule, this retreat is almost 20 years old, so we keep the schedule the same from year to year.

We do have some discussion about the workshops and drop in stations that we offer, but the larger conversation is about the Bible passage that will shape the retreat.  Once we offered every workshop or drop in station that people volunteered to teach, but now we try to offer the majority of creative activities that will tie into the retreat.

At the planning session, we also plan for the retreat for the year after the year of the upcoming retreat, so yesterday we turned our attention to 2020.  We have a 3 year cycle where we focus on a different aspect of the Trinity, so by 2020, we'll be back to God the Creator.

I suggested that we do the Annunciation story, God as Creator of the baby Jesus.  I suggested that if we felt very daring, we could have a conversation about sex and God.  We backed away from that, not because we're cowardly people but because in 2021, we'll be back to a Jesus year.  It's an interesting question:  is the Annunciation story more about God the creator, or the baby Jesus, or Mary?  Yes, to all of those.

I suggested we study Noah and the flood.  In 2011, we focused on a difficult aspect of God when we explored the second Genesis story, the expulsion from the Garden.  I said it might be time for a difficult subject again:  what do we do when we're surrounded by wreckage?  How do we create again?

Much to my surprise, we decided that we liked that idea.  So many of us will face such deep losses in a normal lifetime, not to mention the deep losses that some of us will experience in addition to the normal losses.  How do we reclaim our lives out of wreckage?

We kept planning the 2019 and the 2020 retreat until 3.  Then a group of us headed over to Hendersonville for a gallery hop.  Actually, we didn't hop much--we mainly wanted to see the display of one of our Create in Me potter friends.  At some point, maybe I'll post some pictures that I took; she's a very talented potter and assemblage artist.

After that, we went to the Sierra Nevada brewery; I think of them as a western brewery, but they actually have a huge brewery near the Asheville airport.  They also have a beautiful brewpub, where we had the kind of dinner I like best:  we kept ordering everything on the menu that looked good, sharing them until we were full.  I had 2 beers and tastes of everything that looked interesting on the menu, all for $35.

I am trying to walk 10,000 steps every day in September, so some of us went for a moonlight/flashlight walk when we returned to camp.  It was beautiful.

Soon my kind friends will wake much earlier than they would otherwise to take me to the airport.  It's been a good trip here, but it's time to go back.  I'm interested to see how much progress has been made on the floors.  I'm interested to see if my spouse has made any decisions about the kitchen cabinets.  I need to get ready for the week ahead--the week before another quarter starts at school.

But for now, let me keep breathing the mountain air.  Let me rest in the comfort of camp for just another bit of time.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumn Arrivals in the Heated South

Today we mark the arrival of Autumn--ah, the autumnal equinox.  I don't have lots of memories of this "holiday"--but I do remember an autumnal equinox in the Wellness Center for a Monday evening class.  The Wellness Center has windows in every direction, and it's on the 8th floor of a Ft. Lauderdale doctor's office building at the hospital.  We looked to the east to see the full moon rising, and we looked to the east to see a blazing red sun sinking towards the horizon--glorious.

This morning, I'm writing in Carla cabin at Lutheridge, while the sky is slowly lightening.  I managed to sleep until just after 6--wow.

I got here yesterday afternoon, after an easy flight on Allegiant Airlines.  Once Allegiant flew to Asheville only once or twice a week from Ft. Lauderdale; now they fly daily, although that may be a seasonal shift.  Since I had to pay in advance to choose a seat, I decided to treat myself to an exit row seat for $18, a good decision.

I had thought I would buy a meal at the airport, but nothing appealed.  I decided to buy snacks on the plane, pricey, but a treat.  Plus I was hungry, and I knew the plane would land at 3:15, which is a long time until 6:00 dinner.

I am happy to report that I lost myself in a wonderful book:  the first of N. K. Jemison's Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, which I heard about on this episode of 1A.   How have I not heard about this author and this series?  As I heard the show, I wondered if it would be a sci-fi book where I just couldn't get into the alternate world, but because it won so many awards, I decided to give it a chance.

As I walked through the Asheville Airport, I heard, "Welcome to the Asheville Airport y'all. Please enjoy some free ice cream"--how I love airports in small (smallish) Southern towns!  They offered a choice of 8 flavors--wow.  I am happy to report that I had the Cappucino Fudge Crunch.

When I got to Lutheridge, I was amazed at how hot is was:  85 degrees.  Carla cabin doesn't have AC, so it was stuffy, so I spent lots of time walking Lutheridge, thinking of how much the place means to me, all the times I've been here, all the people I miss.  I prayed as I walked, as I do in these spiritual places.  There's not much fall color, but that's O.K.  I'll be back here for a retreat in October.

We had a great night of planning the 2019 Create in Me retreat.  And then it was off to a peaceful sleep--although I did wake up at 3 in the morning to hear a distant chainsaw (or was it a motorcycle?  It lasted a long time and didn't seem to move like a vehicle would).  But I was able to fall back asleep.

Today will be another great day of planning and hiking the loops of Lutheridge--plus, perhaps some other fun events.  I feel lucky that I could be here to plan, unlike past years when a hurricane has been over my head, or I've been starting a new job and couldn't get away.  I feel lucky that I found a cheap airline ticket, so that the trip didn't wear me out.

Most of all, I feel lucky that I could be here for a time of renewal, even though it will be brief.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Fragments: Creativity, Anxiety, Travel, and Possessions

--Every morning as I blog, I wonder if I should be doing a different kind of writing.  But I also wonder if I'm creating and perfecting this form of writing--and will anyone care?  I think of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, and I think she'd be a blogger, if she was living today--although her poverty might have kept her offline.

--I am trying to think about my successes, not my failures.  In the last few weeks, I could have sent out more of my creative work.  But let me think about the fact that I've done some actual writing.

--I'm listening to the On Point interview with Ethan Hawke.  He talked about working on Boyhood, the movie that was made over 12 years.  He talks about it being a movie that was made without the element of having to sell it.  He says it was like being in your room painting watercolors with your friends or making music on Christmas Eve.  I love that way of talking about making art.

--Yesterday was one of those days when I felt frustrated about the roles I was asked to play at work, and I realized I was frustrated not because I felt they were beneath me, but because they weren't working for me.  I was trying to make technology behave for the people who couldn't come to an Advisory Board meeting and tried to call in.  It took an inordinate amount of time to set up the GotoMeeting software (is it software?), and then the sound didn't work right for the callers, and on and on.  I kept thinking, "Don't we have a tech person to help?"  We used to--that's what's frustrating.

--But we carried on, and we had a meeting that worked as much as it needed to--and eventually, one of the onground participants figured out how to fix the sound.

--Last Thursday night was more fun because it had less glitches.

We had an ice cream social at school to raise money for the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce scholarship fund that gives students scholarships for college.  There was plenty of opportunity for glitches, but I somehow managed not to stress over it.  Yesterday I felt mildly anxious all day.

--Another possible source of my anxiety:  I'm traveling today.  I'm flying to Asheville for the retreat to plan the Create in Me retreat.  I got a cheap ticket on Allegiant Air.   Part of me is thrilled to be able to zip up there.  Part of me misses the meditative aspect of the 12 hour drive (but I'll get that in October and November).  Part of me dreads the security line.  But I am also looking forward to the chance to read a book.  I'm taking N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season with me.

--Later this morning, I'll need to dig the suitcase out of the cottage.  During the July prep time for the Great Flooring Project, I used the suitcases to pack away some off-season clothes that I wouldn't need.  I assumed that the Great Flooring Project would be done by the time I needed them.  Luckily, I know exactly where they are.

--It's interesting to reflect on this time of house reconstruction.  My books have been packed away in the cottage since July (some since late May).  The CDs were packed away too.  I hesitate to admit that I don't miss them in the way I thought I would, which leads me to ask, "Do I  really want to keep them?"

--But I also have this vision of being a little old lady, the one who outlives the rest.  Will that little old lady want to read these books or listen to these CDs?  She might.  What will bring me comfort?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Shelter Week and Beyond

A friend asked me how we're eating, now that our kitchen has been dismantled.  So far, we are doing most of our cooking on the grill--the stove was moved into the front bedroom 2 weeks ago. Now that we have dismantled the sink, it gets a bit harder. Plus, I didn't realize how much I need countertop space until I didn't have a counter. So, we're eating simple things. My spouse made a pot of mac and cheese on the burner that's part of the gas grill--like having a one burner stove top ring to the side of the main grill, so that's been handy. I eat a lot of cheese and crackers and wine for an evening snack--my favorite, and if I added some veggies, I could almost count it as a meal.

During most weeks of the year, we don't have a regular evening meal every night, like some families do.   During regular weeks, I'll have more of a snack than an evening meal, so our current life doesn't feel too different--at least in terms of dinner.   Making coffee is a chore--I have the coffee maker set up on a small table that's usually an outdoor table.

I am in that summer phase of eating, where it's just too hot to eat, and I'm hungry but nothing sounds good. Sigh. So, having the kitchen dismantled isn't making me too grumpy. Later, when I wish I could bake something, it might.

But I have a house. I have that on the brain because my church is doing a shelter week this week. It's this program where area churches serve as temporary shelter for homeless families that are in transition to having a home. So families come to the church for an evening meal and to sleep the night. Church members sleep there too, just so that everyone feels safe.

This week, between two families, there are 7 children, all of them under the age of 4, except for an 8 year old. I went over after work Tuesday night. I changed out of my work clothes and helped get the kids fed, and then we did some reading together.

I had planned for this.  I had gone to the used bookstore that is near my school to pick up some kid's books--they had a great selection, so I bought a lot. It was a treat to shop for them.  I also picked up some used books that I have in mind for a Halloween display at the school library.

I envisioned that I would read and all the kids would gather round. Nope. But the bright girl who was only 3 years old "read" to me--she looked at the pictures and made up a story, with book after book. It was a delightful, though exhausting, way to spend an evening.

I know that I am lucky--I have a house to go home to, even if it's under reconstruction.  If I need a quiet evening, I can plan it.  I can't imagine being a single mom in charge of 4 small children with no home.

I am also thinking of all the people in the Carolinas who will be displaced by Hurricane Florence.  Some will rebuild; some will never recover.  I listened to the clip of President Trump yesterday promising that residents will have every resource that they need and promptly.  I tried not to laugh with bitterness.

I'm lucky.  I had savings, so I didn't have to hope that the government could help me.  The government wasn't going to help me, because I had insurance--again, I'm lucky.  My damages may end up costing me more than the insurance paid--we're trying to be frugal, while getting everything done properly.  But I stress again:  I'm lucky to have savings and other resources. 

I'm most lucky in that my house has been a livable structure while we've been working our way through these repairs.  The flood waters didn't swamp the main structure.  The rest of my South Florida community wasn't so damaged:  so I could work, and I could get supplies, and my friends didn't all move away.

I have these things on the brain today, the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico.  I know that my experience could have been worse.  And the ever present fear:  that there may be a worse time coming.

But let me try to move my brain away from that idea.  I've spent a lot of my life worrying about stuff that never came my way.  Let me stay as prepared as I can, while living my life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Triggering Times

So here we are, another Senate Judiciary Committee preparing to ask a woman about her claims of sexual misconduct (such a polite word for the behavior) at the hands of a Supreme Court nominee.  Now, as in the Anita Hill hearings in 1991, the panel will be white and male.

Now as 27 years ago, we are having a national conversation about what behavior is O.K.  I am startled by the behavior that some people see as normal.  Have I led that sheltered a life to be so shocked at this idea that boys will be rapists, and we should see this violent behavior as normal?

Let me stress that I'm not judging the Supreme Court nominee or his accuser--either now or in 1991.  I am judging the national conversation.  I don't think that adolescents of either gender get a free pass to behave in aggressive ways just because their brains aren't fully developed.  We train 2 year olds to behave differently, and I don't suspend those expectations once the child hits puberty.

It's a very strange time we're living in, with a variety of accusations of sexual awfulness swirling in the national news:  from priests to presidents to so many people across a variety of entertainment industries.  A few weeks ago, as the details of the Pennsylvania predator priests dominated the news, I told a friend that I was finding the coverage to be very triggering.  I said, "And I've never experienced that kind of abuse.  Just the normal stuff:  people hollering at me from cars when I'm out for a run or following me . . ."  And then I realized what I was saying--that I accept that behavior as normal.  I expect to tolerate it, just because I'm a woman out and about in the world.

I tend to dismiss it, even as those incidents make me feel a bit nauseated and distinctly threatened.  This summer has also been the summer of the missing college girl who turned up murdered in the trunk of a car of a man who wouldn't take no for an answer.  It's a reminder of the price of being female in the world.

When I was younger, I read all sorts of books about developmental psychology.  I was intrigued by the stories of women at midlife who reacted in various ways.  I read about women who felt invisible and wanted to prove their continued attractiveness.  I read about other women who finally felt free to evolve.

I have always felt a bit invisible when it comes to the male gaze.  I have a type of attractiveness, to be sure, but it's not the type that we see as valued across popular culture.  It's an attractiveness that I think of as sturdy, as opposed to bubbly and cute.  If you wanted a companion to homestead Mars, you might choose me.  If you need a woman on your arm who looks good in designer duds, you'll likely choose someone else.

Throughout much of my life, I've been O.K. with that, while at the same time knowing that this invisibility doesn't insure I am protected from the threats that come with existence in a female body.  I am yearning for the time when these sexual assaults are no longer front and center news stories.

I yearn for the time that they aren't front and center news stories because they no longer happen, not just because we outraged about something else.

Heart heavy sigh.