Whatever happened to the value of solitude, simplicity, of being still? Seems I’ve examined the lives of others around me for years and, shaking my head, quietly whispered words of gratitude that I hadn’t run around as frantically as they do. You know…work, more work, even more work, appointments, obligations, juggling family needs, kid diversions, school, cleaning, renovations, getting ahead, jumping from place to place, event to event, constant stimuli everywhere one turns; the rat race. I’d once vouched never to subject my child to an ever-streaming deluge of entertainment-based activities. Once in a while is all right, maybe even special. Boredom once did a child good, served a purpose, propelled creativity and stretched independent thinking. I don’t know what happened, but I’m suddenly THAT person, the one I’d once, in a small way, pitied, who has tipped away the beautiful scales of balance. I’m overwhelmed with busyness. Life has grown too chaotic. Downtime is complicated. First, it’s hard to achieve. Second, when you actually make it happen, a rare pencil mark on the calendar, that moment arrives and doesn’t seem to be enough. You’re thirsty for more. At the same time, guilt has a way of wiggling in there telling you that it’s not okay to relax – as long as there are other things to do, and there are ALWAYS other things to be done. How did this all happen? I don’t like being this busy, when I can’t stop for a second to watch a bird teeter on a twig. Because I enjoy that…watching birds teeter on twigs. Indeed, daily life has grown chaotic. Like the structure of those around me in what has become the normal standard of life. Can I still breathe? Maybe I should freeze for a second to find out. I’m not sure this kind of frenzied lifestyle is great or healthy, but this seems to be the way it has become. As if there is a subliminal message in our culture that busyness equates to importance. Can we be too busy for our own good? For me, that’s a definite yes. I begin my rebellion today. Just after I take care of this one thing first.
Rich or poor, strong or weak. We all have something in common. It is a human condition. An essence that ties us together. Without it we break apart.
We need to forgive.
We need to be forgiven.
We need forgiveness.
My publisher is working on combining The Brother’s Keep series into one set. This coming April, all four of my YA romantic fantasy novellas will be available in one volume via Soul Mate Publishing. The cover was just revealed to me, and now I’m revealing it to you. Symbols from each of the novellas are represented in this gorgeous new cover (love!). Sharing today’s news from my happy camp.
A terrible ice storm hit Tennessee, blanketing everything with frost, uprooting trees, downing power lines. Many of us went without power for days. Roads became ice skating rinks with cars and people ill-equipped to glide with ease. Over 20 people died as a result of auto accidents and hypothermia while trapped in the unbearable cold…in some places -10. Temperatures not experienced before, not even close. House pipes froze, heaters fizzled, yet the flu epidemic was alive and well. Not a good combination for anybody. Even the deer and other wildlife ventured beyond their usual edge-of-woods curiosity to the backdoor as if asking, “Help us out…?” I think many would agree that it’s been a treacherous period here in Tennessee where I live, a part of the nation declared a level III State of Emergency. Schools had closed for an entire week (and then some). Nonetheless, each time I peered out the window, smacking my arms for the heat of friction, frozen puffs of breath escaping my mouth, I’d gasp at the splendor outside. I’d never seen anything so spectacular. The ice-covered trees sparkled like an endless ballroom of crystal. And although the gusts of wind had proved dangerous, it made the branches and limbs glimmer and wink even more. Everything else seemed frozen in time. The scene possessed greater magic than any epic fantasy novel. Glorious in beauty, how can something so hazardous and destructive be also thrilling and inimitably divine?
“Break the ballerina,” I have deliberated. I want to be reconstructed, transformed into another kind of dancer – that of flamenco. I want to learn, I want to be of that world.
Flamenco is something that has always drawn my attention, yet I've never had ample time or opportunity to pursue studying it—and unless you’re born into it flamenco is a type of study. It’s like learning a new language, a new culture. Serious students only, for flamenco is far too complex and challenging for the easy going. In many ways, I find flamenco more difficult than ballet or any other form of dance I've carried out. It requires absolute immersion physically, mentally, and spiritually. I don’t know whether it’s where I am in life today or if the timing is suddenly just ripe, but I am shifting things around to make room to absorb and to learn, to train. I can tell in my heart of hearts that there is no turning back for me. I've caught the “flamenco bug” and I’m in the midst of a new and lasting love affair.
Currently, I am dancing with Pasión Flamenca under the direction of Lucia Andronescu. A good fit for me in both style and method, I am receiving superb technique training along with continual performance experience. I began this particular journey about two months ago.
One day, I will look back at the progression, my metamorphosis from one kind of dancer into another. Flamenco is truth by fire, a matchless, mystical pilgrimage that, in a strange way, provides a sense of balance for this spiritually attuned dancer/novelist.
I like being still. I like solitude. But I like them on my own terms. Having finished a two week mandatory rest due to a back injury I couldn't decide which was worse, the pain or the fixed inactivity. Drove “restless me” a bit crazy.
Ergonomics a “back” factor as well, the suggestion to sit balanced on an exercise ball for limited computer sessions to write and meet freelancing deadlines made me feel strangely disconnected. What kind of circus is this?
Fortunate in that I had managed to remain injury free throughout my previous years of dance, this whole thing I’m experiencing now, a sprain stemmed from a developed condition prevalent among older dancers, is weird.
My nature is to plow into interests rather than ease. When I had recently decided to return to dance I plowed. When will I become a graduate of the nagging KISS principle? Now I face several months of therapy before I can venture back to dance activities (harrumph). In a fit of rebellion I had wanted to deny the back condition, plug my fingers into my ears and sing, “LaLaLa-I-Can’t-Hear-You-LaLaLa.” Except, physical stipulations speak louder; my body won’t allow the revolt. What I’m learning here – what I've had to learn before – is that there are periods in life when one must exercise patience. Not only exercise but embrace. There is beauty in being still, but you have to truly be still – mind, body, spirit – to perceive it.
“Adopt the pace of nature; patience is her virtue.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Be still, and know that I am God.”—Psalm 46:10
I grew up in a seaside village of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a place that I adore, a region endearing to my heart. While I toured the world, I always returned to what I call “home.” But I've been living away now for a long time. Seems I've been trying to get back, relocate, forever. Even visits don’t come as often as they should, and I miss my family and friends I grew up with, a concentration of the few people I trust in life.
Often, I catch myself daydreaming of being a stone’s throw away to longtime loved ones once again, never missing birthdays or holidays. Island living: residing in a cottage tucked away somewhere in a village that serves as a quiet refuge for deep thinkers. But when it’s time to come out of hiding and pay respect to society, a short stroll to the artsy town’s main street would do it. Donning a windbreaker, smelling the salt in the air, the seaweed, fish, and creosote, I’d take a brisk jaunt down the wharf to have coffee (where everybody knows your name) and reclaim my small-town-girl identity.
I’d comb the beach until an extended wave catches me by surprise, then I’d welcome it as it caresses my ankles with frigid indigo laps. Eat plump berries from the roadside stands, smiling at the stains left on my fingers. Relish the rugged outdoors that furnishes a person with a sense of hardiness and satisfaction. Only a phone call joins family and friends on chilly days in rooms made warm by boisterous laughter. I want it all back, all of us together again. It could not be beat, my little daytime fantasy.
Several times now, I've had to cancel flights home by unforeseen circumstances. This week I should have departed for the Seattle airport. Instead of filling the role as guest to family I’m visitor to disappointment. But then it dawned on me, an epiphany. In a blink, nine years have passed while residing in the Southeast. Where did the time go? Has it really been that long? I realized how much I've come to anticipate the bloom of dogwoods, fragrant hanging honeysuckle, and the vibrant and unruly kudzu. Okra prepared in any fashion. Red cardinals and mourning doves mingling daily. Tepid humidity that makes one’s skin glow. Symphonic storms, labyrinth of tributaries, low-lying hills and curving roads. I've recently reentered the arts realm and have networked with several dancers and dance companies. Familiarity makes one feel less a stranger. I've made new friends to trust. Besides all of that, my son was born and raised here. This is home to him. I've come to realize that East Tennessee has become home for me, too.
Nothing compares to being with or near family, nor can anything replace that. I don’t have extended family here in Knoxville and that makes me sad. But circumstances have played out making East Tennessee home – a home for which my heart has opened…a region I’m in love with, proud of, and if ever a trip away, eager to return to its embrace.
“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” ~ Jan Glidewell
“One must simply take the days of their lives as they happen. If you spend time worrying over what is to come, which may or may not happen, then you will only be wasting precious days you will wish in the future you could have cherished a bit longer.” ~ R.J. Gonzales, Mundahlia
I want a t-shirt that says “I HAVE ISSUES.” It would serve as part of the 7 Steps to Humanity program. Geared especially for those in the political arena, for I've come to learn that politics is the Great Evil (late bloomer, I know…). Politics can turn the most mild-mannered, soft-spoken individual into Chief Butthead (apologies first to my dear mother for my use of the “B” word then to everyone else for behaving like one).
It’s like this. The next time you start to make a politically charged statement that has the potential to offend and/or hurt others, one might just point to the shirt, a silent reminder that you’re stepping out of bounds, and vice versa. I’ll be the first (hand raised) to commit to wearing one. This proposal could be a remedy for the shame of having to apologize to gobs of people or burying your head in the sand. A solution to save our society from dystopia. Think about it. We all wear the shirts and we become better, more conscientious people. People who value, respect, and uphold all humankind, regardless of background, race, sides, and conditions. We understand each other. We’re all in this together. Now imagine a sea of I HAVE ISSUES in Congress. Wow. Talk about humility. Simple, right?
It would never work.
The wish to purge my life of anything unused seems to have grown. In fact, the older I get the stronger the desire. With a fresh new season finally here, so is my amped version of “spring cleaning.” Some might already call me a sort of minimalist. I dislike untidiness. I have but a few boxes of keepsakes. Mostly, I don’t like to hang onto things – unless they’re books – and I don’t care for storage. Yet I could stand to give away more: items that swallow up space and weigh a person down. I’m fond of space. Minimalism is not completely what I’m living, but it’s something I fancy.
These days I find I’m reflecting much about certain friends from way back when, a painter and a musician, each successful in their chosen field, who had married and chose an uncluttered life. Instead of getting swept up in accessible opulence they held simplicity in high esteem. I truly valued visits and dinners at their place, not only for their exuberant friendship but for their lifestyle that left an impression on me.
With unencumbered style, these friends of mine enjoyed a unique yet modest home, along with a small selection of fine things, each item carefully chosen and having its proper place. Everything had a purpose and if something lost its purpose they got rid of it. Even their studios accommodating artwork and instruments reflected organization and tidiness. I suppose the only lavishness rested in the privacy they held behind a tree-lined buffer. For other than a few rows of fruit trees, a path through the forest, and a small yet lush vegetable garden, the spread of acreage was untamed, tucked away from the public, and magnificent.
My mind churns today as I think about them, my minimalist friends. I should have followed their example a little more closely over the years. But, if I can start at one little corner and work my way out, perhaps I can achieve what’s true to my inner nature. The prime notion here is that bigger isn't better and accumulation of “stuff” isn't all that important. People are. Relationships, events, making memories…taking pleasure in the moment, in the satisfaction of just existing. Spring has arrived. Enjoy the simplicity.
Black Sheep, you are different not undesirable; misunderstood not disreputable. Honor is a power of the heart not a reflection of surroundings or surrounding attitudes. Your heart is strong. You do not fail, you climb. Failure is for those who do not move their hooves. Your hardy little even-toed hooves go, go, go! You ascend at your own pace. If you trip, you bleat, but you try again. Resilience. Among the scrutinizing eyes of your compeers I feel your pain, and yet I applaud—for there is no shame in being who you are or what God made you. No embarrassment, only delight. No shame, only honest pride. Some look at you and see deviation from the flock. I see straightforwardness.
Black Sheep, you are beautiful, and as you should be.