Icicles by sun and moon.

Took these shots up at the cabin this winter. Wish I’d had something more than a cellphone camera to take the night pic, this just doesn’t do it justice. The moonlight reflecting off the ice was…I don’t know. Sublime? Stirring anyway. In a very good way. I was spellbound by the fragile, unearthly beauty of it.

For what it’s worth…

icicles by dayicycles by night

In the comment section after my last post, a couple readers asked if I could explain what the “powerful reason to live” was that I came by during my last bout with suicidal ideation way back when. I did my best to explain it with words but there was just no way to describe it that was ever gonna work.

These pictures explain it better I think, especially the night one. The wonder I felt when I woke up and saw the beauty of moonlight reflecting off the ice was similar in some way to that unearthly light I experienced in the depths of my despair.

I think it was St. John of the Cross who said something like “…when I thought the dawn was forever lost I found Your love in the light of the stars.” I’ve also heard that in some ancient spiritual traditions it was believed that the insane were actually touched by something divine and therefore sacred. I relate to that. During that hour when the obsession to die had taken over, my thinking was clearly irrational and insane. And yet it was in that madness, experiencing things that my rational mind would never allow, that I was finally touched by something transcendent and radiant that helped me finally find an enduring reason to live.

On a side note, I really wish this ongoing conflict between science/medicine and religion/spirituality would stop and we could instead start openly exploring the places where they intersect, what they could heal together. Each field has such profound and life-nourishing tools at their disposal and I know, in my case, if it hadn’t been for the help I received from both it’s unlikely I’d still be alive.

Just imagine if their resources were pooled, what the synergy of that interaction might reveal. The thought takes my breath away.

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What many think about but precious few mention. Including me.

chiarascuro

Magdalene With the Smoking Flame by

Georges de La Tour

Editor’s note: I actually wrote this post a few years ago but was too…I don’t know. Devastated? Confused? Chicken?…to actually publish it. I just found it again this morning, brushed it off and read it, and realized it’s time I just got over myself and put it out there for whatever it’s worth. The truth is I’ve healed so much over the last three and a half years and it’s mostly because I found a lot of other people who understand and aren’t afraid to talk about this kind of stuff and it’s amazing to meextraordinaryhow much that’s helped to normalize my life again. So, here’s passing at least some of that gift on.   Love you all.

We had dinner with Cam’s parents last night and it was a good visit. It’s coming up on two months now since he committed suicide so of course they’re having a lot of bad days and bad nights…some good moments but still mostly hard…and I admit, it was a splendid gift for us to be able to sit down and share it all with them. Shook us back awake from the swiftly creeping denial and oh-so-human stupor of taking things for granted again.

Life is a rare, luminous, and devastating gift. God help us.

Today my thoughts turn back to something I observed during the days immediately following Cam’s death, the period when we kept gathering to cling to one another at the lip of the abyss that had opened at our feet.  There were a lot of people impacted by his loss…Cam touched more lives than we had any idea…and there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 people who attended the memorial service alone, not to mention the swarms that kept showing up at vigils, memorial events, dinners, and other spontaneous gatherings.

And I couldn’t help but notice that, while I heard everyone openly discussing Cam’s battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, only one person, a young woman, acknowledged that she had waged a battle of her own.  Which at first seemed like a good thing…the rest of us must all be safe then, no?

But then I remembered the recent surveys showing that almost four percent of adults battle clinical depression with even higher rates for teens while, in the U.S. alone, more of us now die from suicide than motor vehicle accidents.

Which is when it dawned on me that it was statistically impossible for Cam and this one other girl to be the only ones out of the thousand-plus assembling who’d ever experienced suicidal thinking. Far from it in fact. A fair number of the people I was looking at and talking to must have, at some point, toyed with the idea of taking their own lives. And there was a smaller and scarier subset of the people around me who were currently considering it.

But for some reason all of them were maintaining strict radio silence.

Actually, not for some reason. I know exactly why they weren’t saying anything. I used to think about ending my life all the time and almost did a few times…when I was nine, twenty-eight, and thirty-five years old to be exact. So of course I’m familiar with the ebb and flow of dark thoughts. But I wasn’t speaking up either.

Why? Because suicide is a very taboo topic. It’s laden…laden…with shame whether you’ve tried it yourself, considered trying it, have it in your family, or even so much as mention it in polite company. (Try bringing it up at your next holiday dinner and see what happens for yourself.) The taboo against talking about suicide is deeply entrenched and we all learn early and well that secrecy is the ONLY socially correct response.

I’ve always thought that people who can stand up and openly challenge a taboo this powerful are almost mystically brave, which I’m not. N.O.T. During the weeks following Cam’s death, I freely admit I only revealed my own history with suicide one time. And it was the edited and not-entirely-true version of…I almost committed suicide once…and, as expected, the disclosure wasn’t received well allowing my clam shell to quickly slam shut again.

Which, in all honesty is what I really wanted. I was incredibly uncomfortable bringing it up.

But I’d be lying if I said that Cam’s suicide hasn’t called up the old ghosts for me…not that killing myself holds the allure for me it once did, thank God. I passed through a final ring of fire on my last attempt and finally discovered a powerful reason to live, something that’s sustained me ever since.

But I do vividly remember the old stomping grounds of suicidal ideation…that dark and isolated, grotesquely seductive terrain that the terrible wounding of life can topple anyone into…and Cam’s death along with another young family member’s recent suicide attempt has not surprisingly called up those memories. The old ghosts are back, vivid as ever, and they’re deeply distressed and chattering at me to do something.

Only this time, instead of urging me to end my life they seem to have come up with another plan. They want me to emerge from my hidey hole and start being more up front with the world about this part of my life. They want me to say something. They insist…no, moanthat keeping the secret is bad for me and truly awful for them, and they don’t really care anymore if I have mystical courage or not. Joan of Arc isn’t available and I’m all they’ve got.

These ghosts are giving me a lot to think about. I’m not sure what exactly they want me to say, but I know they’re right about one thing…I have been hiding out rather than talking about it. It’s why I quit posting here and why I almost stopped writing entirely for the last five months. With two family members attempting it, OF COURSE suicide has been on my mind a lot, but I really have been too afraid to explore it here on the blog.

For the shame. 

Editor’s note: Not so much anymore though. I have much to be thankful for. 

 

Live Wilder

https://www.livewilder.org/

 

 

The World is Golden

aspen-against-blue-sky-horizontal-yesThere’s a long, south facing hillside up in the Stanley valley, near Redfish Lake, which is covered with an equally long stand of aspen trees. There’s a trail that meanders along the base of the hillside for a few miles and I’ve always thought that hike would be spectacular in fall when the trees were in full color but for two decades I’ve missed it. Successful leaf peeping requires timing, luck, and motivation and for whatever reason I’ve never had all three in sync.

This year I finally hit it. I did a runaway up to the cabin for a couple days of Indian summer and struck gold. Turns out it wasn’t just the aspen. The whole valley was lit up. Golden. This time of year the light is thinner, slanted, as the sun retreats back towards the southern hemisphere and the way it reflected off the changing foliage of willows and dogwoods, aspens and dried grasses made the air itself glow. It was an extraordinary sensation.

Left to my own devices I would have parked my phone camera at home and just rambled around for two days soaking it in. I find a lens tends to get in between me and the full experience of a place. But I promised my mother-in-law I’d take pictures for her and it was not a promise to renege on. Marie lived up in that valley for twenty-five years, running the medical clinic as the first practicing nurse practitioner in the state of Idaho and ministering to the health needs of a rural population when no doctor was willing to go. She adored her life up there, loved it, but at 84 years old and losing her sight she’s given up the mountain mama existence and moved to the lowlands where more care is available. She never complains mind you, she’s an amazing woman that way, but I could hear the longing in the way she talked about her memories of the fall colors so I was hellbent and determined to at least capture some of it for her digitally.

These are the result.

Version 2Above is Fishhook Creek running through a large beaver engineered water system that spans the meadow with a couple of Sawtooth peaks behind.

fisher-creek-range-sunsetFoothills in front of the White Clouds mountain range during sunset. You can see pockets of color as the aspen are changing.

iron-in-river-rocksThis is a stone in Fishhook Creek full of iron, which gives it the orange-red color. (It’s an iron rich area.)

aspen-hillside-with-mountain-yesThis is a view of part of that long hillside I mentioned. The color just keeps going and going and going and going…

And finally…

illuminated-aspen-1Sunlight illuminating the leaves from behind. The photo doesn’t do it justice of course. The real effect was rather holy…another one of those moments out in the natural world when the impulse to fall on my knees and whisper thank you to whatever would listen almost got me. In the end I couldn’t do it in front of the Canadian hikers behind me but still, we were all pretty quiet and big eyed.

Here’s for you, Marie. Thanks.

Here’s some joy…a wedding proposal pic in the Sierras.

It looks like my niece just got engaged! No, I mean literally…it looks like it. My brother sent us all an email with this subject heading…

get ready to party!!!!

…and this picture…

Betsy proposal

Evidently, she said yes once she got her mouth out of her shirt.

(BTW, I have no idea what the flags mean…something Japan maybe? And I love, love, love the grins on the faces of their friends. Kinda nice to spread the joy, no?)

Congratulations Betsy and fiancee!! (Sorry…I know I met you a couple months ago but I can’t remember your name. No problem…looks like I have a lifetime to learn it now.)

Little Hilltop Shrine Stories

A while back I posted about a little roadside memorial shrine the hubster and I stumbled over in the Sawtooth Mountains, one which I found unusually moving. Well, we found another one last month that grabbed my heart, only this time it was up on a mountain peak overlooking a section of Hells Canyon and the Snake River.

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20160508_164719I think part of the reason this one hit me the way it did was because it was still fresh…the flowers, the grief, the love, the remembering. But it also felt personal because there was something we shared with these people; an obvious love for the place we were in.

It got me thinking about how often we do this, those of us who have lost a loved one, instinctively turn to a physical place like a mountain peak, a gravesite, a body of water, a steam engine (more on that little gem below.) As though, with their bodies gone from us, we need to find something else…something still here…to center around instead. I know for me, when my mother died, finding a place satisfied an illogical but still aching and very real physical need, especially in the early days after her loss. It was where where I could locate her, where I could head when I wanted to be near her, or talk to her, or just remember her afterwards.

(Of course these places can also be the spot people avoid when they want to forget somebody, or desecrate when they need to punish…think urinating on a grave or dumping somebody’s ashes down a latrine. It’s always important to remember and respect that not every relationship lost is a good one. However, for the sake of clarity, it’s the loving relationships I’m writing about today.)

After my mother died in Nevada my brother took most of her ashes home with him to scatter over Waimea Bay per her request but I needed something more than that. For all the tangled, aching, complex reasons that shape every journey through grief I wound up also placing her in the Ely cemetery with my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, second cousins, and a twice great uncle whose grave I have yet to find but am still hellbent on trying. It’s actually the place where I eventually want my ashes to go, too. (Or most of them anyway. I’m totally okay with my kids using whatever they need for their own grief journeys just like I did with my mom’s.)

Interestingly, I also find her in the full moon (which, frankly, even I don’t understand but am happy to go with whenever I’m out and about that time of the month.)

It’s curious, now that I think about it, that I actually find her in multiple places; Waimea Bay, the Ely Cemetery, and the full moon. Here’s an article written by another woman who’s linking her husband to multiple places by scattering his ashes all over the world; The 9 Things No One Tells You About Scattering AshesIt’s a great read…not too long, moving, funny, with some truly useful information to boot. If you’ve been afraid of talking (or thinking) about the topic of grief rituals Tré Miller Rodríguez’s column is a worthy place to start.

Anyway.

There’s one particular ash-scattering story that’s a favorite of mine. Ely, Nevada, besides holding the remains of much of my family, is also home to one of the few still-up-and-running steam-engine powered trains. It’s called the Ely Ghost Train and is something of a mecca for steam train enthusiasts who come from all over the world for a chance just to drive the thing.

A staff member once told me the story of a mother and son who showed up at the train asking to ride up in the engine compartment in memory of the steam-engine loving husband and father they’d recently lost. This being Ely they were of course welcomed aboard after which, about halfway through the ride, they revealed to the engineer the real reason they were there. They pulled out a bag of ashes and proceeded to beg permission…according to the wishes of the deceased…to empty them into the firebox where the coal was currently burning. I’m happy to say that the engineer perfectly understood and instantly agreed.

I love this story for two reasons. On the one hand it’s just a great story (and classically Ely BTW. They don’t do anything by the book there.) However, it’s also tender and poignant for me because it reveals that primal instinct again…the way that mother and son traveled to a place where they could anchor into the enduring spirit of the man they loved while, at the same time, surrender their final claim to the warm, beautiful body that had held them, spoke to them, kissed them, gazed at them, and touched them in the thousand ways that only a body can. That’s a lot to finally and irrevocably let go of.

I don’t know. Good-byes just don’t get any bigger than that for me, they don’t, which is probably why these little, wild shrines speak to me the way they do. They remind me of all the final good-byes I watched unfold during my hospice years and how sacred each one was, the times when I stood completely forgotten by a bedside witnessing the final exchange of intimacies so private and pure and searing that they seemed to fill up the room with a pulsing grace that erased everything…everything…but the love of that moment.

They completely changed me over time, those moments. How could they not? So that now, when I come across memorials like this so full of that caliber of love, I can feel the grace swirling around me again.  And while my heart definitely breaks a little each time, these places also remind me of the Big Thing the dying helped me see…that I have to keep loving as much as I can, as long as I can, with whoever or whatever will let me because over time, really, that’s the only thing that’s ever made me truly, completely happy.

I’ll leave you with the final view this departed Veteran was left with. Who wouldn’t love to hang around this place forever?

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Claustrophobic but Joyous and Free

I just watched an exuberant, freeing kind of Youtube video and thought I’d share it here for anyone feeling, perhaps, a little suffocated today…(by anything really, it doesn’t have to be lack of air. For instance I’ve felt suffocated by things as various as failure, fat, saunas, speaking up in front of strangers, and a hyper-inflated sense of responsibility. Really, so many things can suck up available oxygen.)

Fear is usually involved, at least for me.

Well, here’s an example of people facing into some big fear and people helping them do it. The Marine Discovery Dive is an event out of Malaysia that takes a group of physically disabled people scuba diving every year in order to free them from the usual limits placed on not only their bodies, but their minds and spirits as well (which, let’s face it, is where the most severe disabling usually takes place.) There’s a lot, a LOT, of joy in this. Watch and breathe:

It reminds me of a hospice patient I once worked with who was dying from a disease similar to ALS (I can’t remember the name now) which was relentlessly shutting down his autonomic nervous system. As he felt it progressing, and knowing full well where it was headed…he was a highly intelligent man…he sometimes felt like he was being slowly buried alive inside his own body. Not a pleasant sensation by all accounts.

Well, we had a counselor working for the hospice at the time who’d been learning about different kinds of “energy” work for lack of a better term. In any case, she tried it out on this patient and lo and behold, it actually helped alleviate the growing sense of claustrophobia he was struggling with so, needless to say, he became very attached to the treatment.

Fast forward a couple months and said counselor, preparing to leave for two weeks of vacation, asked me if I’d take over while she was gone. I was reluctant because, frankly, what was involved felt a little strange and embarrassing to me. However, when the patient started adding his own earnest entreaties…well, who can say no in the face of that kind of raw need?

Which is how I found myself one afternoon standing over the body of said patient where he was reclining in…well…a recliner, eyes closed. I was waving my arms back and forth over him in the prescribed manner feeling very much like a five year old solemnly pretending to be an ocean tide. Awkward? Yes. Lame? Felt like it to me.

And yet, and yet. He responded to it in spite of my resistance. He gradually, visibly relaxed, the fear lines in his face smoothing, the tension in his body loosening to eventually disappear. There was a look of profound peace that settled over him and even I, Little Miss Judge-It-All, could eventually feel a kind of tactile, tangible silence in the room.

It wound up being a pretty profound experience for me (not that I remotely mattered at the time but, still, it was nice to think about afterwards.) The whole thing wound up wreaking havoc on a set of mental limits I was tenderly suckling without even realizing it, while simultaneously opening me up to the possibility of more possibilities. (Why in the world that seemed so threatening is a mystery, but there you have it.)

What I took away from that experience, and what I take away again from watching the blossoming transformation in the faces of the disabled divers in the video, is that much of the potential for real freedom and joy…the genuine article…lies inside our own minds. My patient’s physical disease didn’t go away but the way he was experiencing it completely changed for a little while. And neither did the disability of any of these divers go away and yet, they all seemed to feel liberated…transformed…in spite of the limits. Maybe it wasn’t a permanent transformation but it was certainly a start, and God only knows what a start can lead to. I’ve seen entire sidewalks…parking lots even…eventually overgrown from a single, tiny weed starting in a single, tiny crack.

So I know…I can feel it…that even though the people in this video are exploring frontiers (disability, like dying, is very much a frontier to me) that I haven’t visited yet myself, it doesn’t mean the things they’re learning aren’t supremely important for me to learn too.

Which is why I write it down here under the guise of sharing it with you. Really, I suspect I’m just archiving it where I can find it again, but if you get something out of it, too? All the better. Have at it, my friends. I think there’s more than enough to go around.

The Camera Phone and the Dilettante Photographer: Part 2

In Part 1 I think I mentioned that I’m a little fixated on skyscapes. (I’d probably be fixated on starscapes, too, but night photography requires a level of skill that is clearly, judging from the deplorable quality of my photos, lacking.)

Most of the great skyscape photo opportunities I get are from the front deck of the hubster’s family’s cabin in Stanley, Idaho. It’s a breathtaking view and, as far as results are concerned, highly ego inflating. You can’t take a bad picture from the place, you just can’t. I challenge anyone to try. It’s a favorite playground for the Northwest weather gods who are forever romping around, rolling in from one end of the valley or the other, or spilling over and between the mountain peaks, or rising up from the early dawn river as fog, or shooting down between a crack in dark clouds as ethereal, roving spotlights. It’s amazing and kind of spellbinding. The first time I ever visited the cabin I just sat at the front window staring outside for three days. (It was also the first time I ever met the hubster’s family who, fortunately, forgave me. They’re pretty proud of the place.)Carpe Musings

Shaw mesa winter storm lighting

Version 2

Shaw mesa dramatic storm front copyTired yet? But I have so many more. Sigh.

These last two were taken by the hubster. The first is morning fog filling up the deep valley between the mesa we perch on and the mountain range on the other side:View this morning B copyAnd the last is…well, we have no idea what this is. It’s a phenomenon we’ve only ever seen up at the cabin this once. It was a column of light that shot up unexpectedly from the setting sun. It was HUGE. The photo doesn’t capture that part. And most odd, lasting about two minutes from the time we first saw it.Morning light column over Sawtooths copySorry for the enormous size of the photograph. WordPress changed the download media feature while I was gone and I haven’t figured out how to resize yet. As mentioned…dilettante. 

The only other time I’ve seen this column of light was on the morning Obama came to Boise to speak while campaigning for his first election. It shot up into the sky from behind the Boise mountains directly over the Taco Bell Arena where he was scheduled in an hour’s time and, between you and me, I think it was an expression of total Idaho flabbergast. A Democratic presidential candidate campaigning here? It was as astounding as if a migrating flamingo had been blown off course and landed in one of the ponds over in Katherine Albertson Park. Even the sky was surprised at such a turn of events and it shot up a great big exclamation point of light before it remembered itself and regained its poise.

I would love to know what causes it though. Any ideas?

copyright 2016 Dia Osborn

The Luminous Nature of Life

Here’s another great quote, only from Carl Jung.  

“Life is a luminous pause between two great mysteries, which themselves are one.”

I ran across it this morning and it knocked my socks off because it so exactly describes the experience I kept having while working with the dying. It appeared so obvious in that setting, the luminousness.

I mean it was fascinating enough watching all the tricks and ploys life uses to extricate itself from the bodies that have housed it for years and years, but what I wasn’t expecting was the faint radiance I kept seeing in people’s solar plexus towards the very end. It looked for all the world like the glow of a rising sun starting to burn off a dense morning fog.

San_francisco_in_fog_with_rays

(By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3)

I came to think of that radiance as life itself and it always changed me for a little while after I saw it, relieving me of some deep and nagging fear that I’m not usually aware I even feel. It was nice. This morning reminded me of it again, only this time as sandwiched between two great mysteries. How great is that?

Well done, Carl. Thanks.

 

 

Great Quote from E.B. White

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

What a beautiful and humorous summation of the paradox we all face!

I love this guy; author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little and an eccentric man who struggled at times with anxiety and depression. Like most writers it was hard for him to determine when a piece of writing was actually “done.” (The bane of rewriting for all of us, that one.) But unlike most writers, he would sometimes panic after slipping a finished manuscript into the mailbox and go to the Postmaster General at the Post Office begging to have it back. This anecdote always makes me feel a little more accepting of my own writing fears.

For a quick peek inside the brilliant, funny, and deeply humane mind of the man, here’s a brief letter he wrote for the editor of Charlotte’s Web:

E.B. White’s Fantastic Letter About Why He Wrote “Charlotte’s Web”.

Little Roadside Shrine Stories

One often sees, alongside the winding, treacherous mountain highways that populate much of Idaho, little memorial shrines where some unfortunate motorist ended their life. It’s never clear what actually happened (accept for one understandably bitter memorial a few years ago siting a drunk driver as a causal factor) but the modest displays usually include some version of a cross or wreath and at least one plastic flower bouquet lovingly selected, I imagine, with an eye towards longevity in a harsh climate.

My heart always breaks a little as our car whizzes past these vignettes of sadness and loss, while that common well of human loneliness we all share sends up a few more disturbing memos. Death happens. Loss happens. Grieve for them Dia because your turn will someday come.  

I often hear ghosts crying from these places and I’ve learned not to fight it anymore because it’s too much effort and they cling anyway. It’s become easier to just let their shattered longing go ahead and touch me, to hold the dead and the stricken against my heart for a moment and then gently, tenderly lay them back down in their shrine to await the next unsuspecting car.

I’ve found that really, in the end they don’t want all that much, these ghosts, just a moment of remembering, and not only for their loss. They also whisper stories about the depths of their love and over time, as I’ve relaxed, the love stories have come to dominate the stories of loss for me.

The hubster and I recently stumbled across this little memorial shrine just off the two lane road that leads from the state highway back to Redfish Lake up near Stanley, Idaho. It’s very curious and a bit of a mystery to me–kind of a cross between the usual little roadside shrines and a regular grave. It actually reminds me of some of the informal yet clearly beloved graves we found in the Quinault Cemetery over in the Olympic Rainforest, only it’s on the side of a public road where I don’t think regulations would allow a burial of remains. Perhaps ashes were scattered somewhere in the area.

Angel headstone at Redfish Lake

It also had a simple cross standing over it, man-sized, with a cap and dog tags hung there. Someone put a lot of loving care into the crafting of the plaque which captures a life through an endearing set of images rather than the usual quotes and statistics.

Headstone close-up at Redfish Lake

I don’t know, there was something about this particular remembering that was different than anything else I’ve seen. It spoke so much more of life than death to me…and was the more poignant for it. The meat cleaver is an interesting touch, no? Balanced by the whisk on the other side, thank god. And the brilliant colors in the butterfly and blooms capture the wildflowers of spring in the area. Whoever this was, they were only twenty-one years old when they died but from the looks of it I’m led to hope that it was a very full twenty-one years.

I can hear the ghosts crying again as I study these photos…oh my heart. I’m glad and grateful this person was here for a little while, whoever they were, and that they were so clearly loved. Our lost companion.

copyright Dia Osborn 2015

Of Furling, Unfurling, and the Great Mystery of Timing

Well, it’s been almost seven months since I lasted posted, way over my deadline. Whoops. Fortunately, it’s not like I’m not getting paid for this or anything so no harm done.

I lost my voice there for a while, during all the aftermath, and didn’t feel like writing anymore so in the end I just didn’t. Simple enough. But lately I’ve been getting the niggle again, to express myself in this lovely, endlessly adaptable language we all share, which both surprises and, I admit, relieves me.

The whole process reminds me of the snails I used to love so much when I was growing up. How I’d place one on the palm of my hand and then sit still and watch it’s slow and graceful slide across my skin, the waving, tubal antennae that I’d gently touch just so I could see them telescope down into themselves, tucking away for temporary safety into the snail’s translucent little head.  And then I’d wait, breathless, and count the seconds until they slowly, magically…for no apparent reason that I could ever ascertain…start to telescope back up again, a glorious and tiny display of snail-curiosity and snail-hope reaching back out into the world and waving around, feeling outside itself for the next thing.

(Here’s a lovely little video blending the grace of snail-world with an original piano piece. Really, it’s endlessly amazing to me how whatever moves you, there’s someone else out there who’s moved by it, too.) 

The returning of my urge to write feels a lot like that, and I don’t understand why now? with the timing of this anymore than I understood it back with the snails, but there you have it. I guess sometimes we don’t really need to understand, things just happen when they happen anyway, and every exhale is always followed by another breath.

Well, except one exhale of course. Let’s not forget that one.

Anyway, yesterday morning I walked out of the house to head out into the world, my antennae waving around in the air above my head, only to be greeted by a sky full of the undulating song of Canadian geese in flight.  It stopped me dead in my tracks as I gazed up and watched the dark, flying V’s approach and pass over and then recede again, their song receding with them. Then as suddenly as I was frozen I felt myself released, so I started for the car only to find a little Mallard duck couple waddling up the driveway toward my feet which instantly froze me all over again.

They didn’t stay very long, this pair. I spoke soft words of welcome and affection to them but all they really wanted was bread so they eventually turned around and waddled back down the driveway towards the next door neighbor’s house where their panhandling is usually rewarded.

Really, it’s such a complicated zone, this transition area where the wild and human worlds meet, full of so much error and so much tender longing. I admit, it can be difficult to know what’s right sometimes.

And then, with their departure, I felt myself released again and finally reached the car to head off deeper into a day where my antennae telescoped up and down, up and down all day, with the contact.

Frankly, I find that the human world doesn’t maintain the same cautious distance that the wild one does. At all. When I’m around people the antennae-hits tend to come with more velocity and frequency, which is harder for me and which I’m working to find a fix for. There are just way too many frozen moments at this point, way too much time spent waiting to internally unfurl again, which has got to change if I’m going to get anything of substance done.

There’s much to learn here, clearly, but today at least I’m writing again and it feels good. ‘Nuff said.

p.s. Happy Birthday sweetheart. Today is a very, very beautiful day for me because you were born. May it be even more beautiful for you.

 

Moving On: A Stop-motion Music Video by Ainslie Henderson

My son just sent me a link to this music video with the brief message, “This video reminded me of something you might like.” He knows me so well, my son.

Thought I’d pass it along because it’s just that good. Here’s a tiny, four minute, very compelling story told in yarn…yarn!…of all things. It’s a tale of life and love and loss, joy and birth and death, about being fully human I suppose. Who knew that a simple textile could be so damn eloquent? This kind of creativity just knocks my socks off.

Selfie in Hells Canyon

The hubster and I spent most of last week in Hells Canyon tent camping for the first time in decades. (It went well. Fantastic in fact, so we’ve decided to plan another trip.) While hiking on one of the trails through the gorge below the dam we got a wild hair and took a selfie…mainly because it’s the only possible way we were ever going to get a shot of both of us in the same frame. It was fun and, surprisingly, turned out halfway decent considering we’d been camping for four days with accompanying grime build-up.

Here it is.

Cal & Dia on Snake River Canyon

Truly though, the surrounding scenery looked better. For example:

The canyon

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The snowcapped Wallowa Mountain range

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A wild rugosa in bloom

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Cascara sagrada leaves (from the tree whose bark gives us the active ingredient in ExLax. Gaze and be grateful.)

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Our campsite (just prior to departure so sans tent, etc.) with Sherpa Pepe and the Kayak Twins

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And an alpine rock garden on top of one of the many peaks

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Did I mention it was wildflower season? It was wildflower season.

We also saw a couple of mountain goats, nesting bald eagles, and a brown bear but alas, being no wildlife photographer, I was unprepared and missed the opportunities. Oh, there were also bats. And a head full of ticks…no, two head fulls…but we were way too frantic trying to rip them out again to even think about taking pictures. No rattlesnake sightings though, even though the canyon is full of them, and thank God for that.

copyright Dia Osborn 2014

An & Ria’s #First Flight: The difference between courage and fearlessness

I love, love, love corporate advertising that reveals something beautiful about us as people. When I watch the kind of commercial that Vodafone created below, I feel like it’s a fair trade–my time and attention for their insight. If they did business in Idaho I’d even consider switching carriers if their product was as decent as their advertising.

This little ten-minute video follows two elderly Dutch women as they prepare for and then take their first flight. It’s delightful on way too many levels to list them all here, so I recommend you just watch it and settle into your own take on it…prepare to smile!

But one of the things that caught my attention was the great example it offers on the difference between courage and fearlessness. Here. See what you think.

When I was younger I always assumed courageous and fearless were just two words for the same thing. That essentially they both described the act of being brave. But as life went on and events required me to face some major, crippling fears of my own I gradually came to understand that there’s a huge…HUGE…difference.

Fearlessness is essentially an absence of fear, no courage is required if a person isn’t afraid to begin with. Ria was fearless, which is a lot of what made her so delightful to watch (not to mention that grin and contagious laugh.) For her, the whole thing was a grand and fantastic adventure, low on challenge, high on learning and fun. I think most of us long to be like Ria.

Courage, on the other hand, is more of a rare flower that can only blossom in the light of fear. Otherwise, it stays dormant…unnecessary and unavailable.

For that matter, even when fear is present courage can remain dormant anyway. The instinct can be so overpowering to play it safe and it can be so much easier to just stay home, even if one risks eventually falling into paralysis that way. Courage seems a little mysterious and ephemeral actually, as though it requires a remarkable confluence of events to finally spark it, but what that spark will be there’s no way to know until it actually happens.

I thought An was the more courageous of the two, because even though she was deeply afraid of flying she still summoned the strength to climb on that plane in spite of it.  She seemed to be the more vulnerable of the two with the greater challenge to overcome, but maybe that’s why, once they were up in the air, I found her quiet wonder as she gazed out the window to be the most moving. Certainly, with the phobias I’ve endured, I understood why she wept when she spoke of the beauty of it all later.

Secretly, I think I long even more for An’s courage than Ria’s fearlessness, although to be honest I think everyone probably has a little of both lurking inside them.  I suppose my real job is to just go ahead and delight in any periods of fearlessness I experience and then be really, deeply grateful if I’m frozen and that mysterious spark of courage ignites to help get me moving again.

copyright Dia Osborn 2014

 

Today I am…

Today I’m both a little fearful and a little in love.

I’m a little fearful that I may be bad somehow…a sneaky shadow from childhood no doubt, still creeping along the ground of my life trying to keep a low profile.

But I’m a little in love with my snail shells, too.

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Snails and I also go back to childhood, only in a better way. I used to spend hours and hours with these tiny friends of mine, placing them on the palm of my hand to wait however long it took until they finally worked up the nerve to peek out again…oh-so-cautiously…checking to see if the coast was clear before spilling out to explore my hand.

Honestly the level of trust required for that really knocked my socks off.

I used to find these companions in a thick groundcover of pickleweed growing on the semi-desert hillside behind our house. My snails loved the succulent jungle it provided and I’d go out on the back patio alone to pick the slimy, slug-like creatures off the leaves and cradle their impossibly fragile shells in my hands, waiting for those two graceful antennae to reappear and wave around, reaching, feeling for something…anything really…to touch. They didn’t seem to care what.

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I was fascinated by their antennae and the way they looked like they belonged underwater, slow and undulating and tube-ish and transparent. They reminded me of the multiple tendrils of sea anemone, how they drift in ocean currents, only my snails antennae waved gracefully all on their own. I thought…and still do…that it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

They were also one of the most vulnerable creatures I’d come across. Their squishability was breathtaking to me, their supposedly-protective shells totally useless, which I still consider odd and unfair and a little deceptive from a destiny standpoint to the point where I feel a little betrayed for them.

Which is why their willingness to reemerge over and over again, no matter how many times I touched their antennae and drove them back into their shells…mostly gently but sometimes a little harder, a tap, to find out just how long it would take them to try this time…blew me away. They never gave up, these ridiculously flimsy creatures. Never quit trying. Never spiraled down deep into their shells saying Fuck it. Who needs this shit? I’m staying put.

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Their curiosity won. I used to watch them for hours, secretly longing for their kind of snail-trust. I was over-the-moon smitten with these guys.

Which is why I eventually carried a handful of them into my bedroom to put in the brand new plastic jewelry box my mother had given me for my birthday. They were a treasure to me, exquisite and beautiful and full of hope, and I couldn’t have cared less that they left snail tracks all over the red, synthetic material lining the inside, the slime staining the fabric while slowly drawing it into permanent wrinkles as it dried.

Turns out my mother cared though, and she was furious when she found them. She didn’t realize what they looked like through my eyes and, falling into that perilous abyss of misunderstanding that ever-gapes between adults and children, she returned them to the patio, built a little pile with them, and buried them in a mound of salt. I felt responsible for their deaths. And very bad.

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Of course, my mother was aghast when I explained to her in later years why I’d been collecting them, and she apologized to me over and over, feeling responsible and very bad, too. But then I knew my mother always loved me like that. I never once doubted that she’d regret it once she realized what happened. Not that she’d love them like I did, because to her they were still snails, but I knew she’d cherish and mourn them with me because she loved me that much.

Sometimes I feel like I was her little snail and my childhood was full of that same kind of thing, with Mom tapping on my antennae and then watching, fascinated and patient and smitten every time, as I’d peek back out and then spill into her hands. Sometimes, sure, she tapped my antennae a little too hard and I’d wind up curled inside for longer than usual, but in the end I could and would always come out again. I could snail-trust with her. That was her gift to me.

I miss her.

Today, I’m a lot in love with my mom.

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copyright 2014 Dia Osborn