Expecting To Fly

There you stood on the edge of your feather, expecting to fly …

~ Neil Young

As I wait with great anticipation for the next grand phase of life to fully fledge, I am drawn inexplicably to large windows overlooking the vast Pacific. Almost as if pulled along by some gossamer thread – then standing, stock-still, gazing down at a small cluster of yellow and green:

 

I’ve heard these babies screaming in their nest to the east, but this morning, they have clearly moved on. Gripping tightly to the Texas ranger’s brittle limbs, they gather close – huddle in tight as Easter peeps in cellophane. One tucks its head back into the warmth of a downy soft wing while two siblings remain facing forward. The wind is fierce today, sweeping the bodies of small saplings into uttanasana. Why Mother Nature telegraphs “fly” to these tiny creatures in such circumstances remains one of life’s great mysteries. Yet even as my mind ponders miracles, here comes the mother bird – feathers ruffling in the gusts – prodding her offspring with an insistent beak to get on with it, while tucking the odd morsel into waiting mouths.

Perhaps it is with all beings, not solely us humans, to flock to the safety of the familiar. 

I marvel at the wisdom of creatures – the inherent intelligence that inspires each purposeful movement. If humans were nearly as frugal – conserving our energies for only what is essential – we would all live well and happily into our hundreds.

But it is a useless fascination – we are each and all endowed with the drive to break through self imposed limitations – unique motivations in this Universal dance of life.

In Over My Head

Why not just come straight out with it and feature a worst case scenario, depicted by eighteenth century artist John Singleton Copley? In actuality, we are 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning than get bitten by a shark.

I never had a proper swimming lesson. Heralding from a family of nine, my mother did what she could to get my younger brothers and me to the nearby community pool in the blistering summer months, where two memories vie for prominence: the spitting trough that surrounded the pool’s interior and the overwhelming lung ache produced by Southern California smog, coupled with too many chlorine fumes both wafting from the pool as well as streaming from locker room showers. They must have used barrels of the stuff on a daily basis. Still in all, I yearned to immerse myself in water, and that was a place I could experience the ecstasy only buoyancy could elicit. It was here that I experimented with the dog paddle and the back float rather unsuccessfully. The most natural posture my body assumed was on my side, stroking along with my nose clearing the water’s surface. I could both swim and breathe this way which sufficed to soothe any misapprehension in the learning process.

I did not master the crawl or the backstroke until high school when I joined a swim team. It simply didn’t look right as a pseudo-jock to sidestroke my way across the pool like a panicked crab. And so I faked it to make the team, though it was my legs that saved me. They have always been strong and trusting in the depths. And though I did participate in competitive water polo and later learned about the buddy system, my lifelong love of swimming ultimately derived from the joy of being alone, surrounded by the nurturing and supportive element of either fresh or salty water.

Certainly in some kinesthetic way we all remember our uterine origins – induction to life here on earth. There is ever something undeniably primal in surrendering to an amniotic-like matrix. Where fear sneaks in for those I’ve spoken with who tend to shy away from deep water is the dearth of knowing what lies beneath. After all, save for twins or other simultaneous siblings, most of us cruised that womb alone. Meanwhile if so very many people did not fear the plunge, it would indeed be crowded out there in Mother Ocean, but it has never been – despite the fact that Hawaii remains one of the world’s premier tourist destinations.

My husband and I recently enjoyed the documentary I AM, conceived by Tom Shadyac, famed director of such films as The Nutty Professor and Ace Ventura. In this film, researchers postulate that we’ve got it all wrong as pertains to the nature of human beings when it comes to actual versus perceived threats. It is in the findings of these scholars and scientists that we discover an inherent cooperation and goodness in all life forms, along with a definitive interrelatedness. Even National Geographic continues financing untold numbers of films depicting the awe-filled savagery of Creation. In truth during the majority of the time however, creatures foster and support community rather than actively engaging adversity. But boring isn’t good box office, nor does the mundane elicit the same kind of funding that contention and discord likely do. Nobody’s fault. But it’s worth a mention and a viewing to discover some of what prompts us to fear so much about this multifaceted miracle of our temporal existence. If we understood to our core that fundamental interconnection, would we relax into trusting more than skittering about in apprehension? Would it make a difference in our experiences?

For me it is less boldness than an acute sensitivity to large bodies of water, coupled with a faith in destiny – that propels me out and into the depths. Maine offered the sparkling glacial jewel that is Goose Pond. In the Hawaiian ocean it is a kinship with the spirits of the deep that has never guided me falsely. If I always pay attention to my gut feeling before entering the water, I remain confident in trusting those impulses. Sometimes that means I sit in the sand and go home to return another day. Most times however, I head on out into the bay.

In the end, if I’m meant to die being torn asunder by sharks – if that is indeed my destiny – there isn’t much I can do to prevent it, even if I never set foot in the ocean again. I might be flying overhead as the plane crashes with the same result. All I’m saying is that somehow I don’t allow fear to overrule the pursuit of happiness in this life. And filling that cup to overflowing always involves joining with nature in all her wild manifestations. I’ll tell you, all the lights on Broadway don’t amount to an acre of green

 

Enter the Dream

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

“The Dream of the Prisoner” (1836) - Moritz Ludwig von Schwind

 

Ancient societies placed great emphasis on dreams, and no major decisions were made without first consulting them. Contrast that with many modern cultural paradigms.

In the film The Neverending Story, a little boy whose mother has recently died is repeatedly told by his father to get his head out of the clouds and put his feet on the ground. Many of us have heard the same thing while growing up. Then we internalize that voice as if it were our own.

This movie’s theme is based on a book the boy finds when he ducks into a small bookshop, in order to avoid three tormenting classmates. The bookstore owner warns Sebastian away from the tome, saying it will involve the boy more than he would want. Sebastian does indeed become part of the story, journeying through a vanishing world called Fantasia. His struggle between doing what his father requires of him and doing what he dreams is a struggle many of us can identify with. We’ve all been conditioned to follow rules imposed by others. Learning to find our way out of this jungle of confusion is the journey we take when we decide to follow the dictates of the creative source deep within.

Fantasia is the realm created by human imagination, not so different from the one in which we live. What we believe, individually as well as collectively, becomes our experience of the world. When we lose the ability to dream, our creative expression is greatly diminished. This industrial age demands, to some extent, that we file in line and shuffle off to work to keep the consumer machine oiled and running. It’s easy to forget there are choices. When things appear stalemated, however – when we feel stuck and hopeless – we can turn back to the dream. Initially it might take time to get the imagination primed and running. But the world is bound to be enriched through our courage to contemplate.

Inspiration requires reflection, hence the ability to dream at night while sleeping. It is in such incubative spaces that it encourages us to try something different or new. During reflection, intuition opens up. Along this stream of awareness, we are carried into a place of immense possibility. Daring to dream gives us permission to invite magic back into our lives.

The death of imagination is a terrible thing. It is the destruction of Fantasia, a world rich with images, creation and food for the senses. To reactivate participation in this magical world, one only has to begin anew. The potential to create afresh exists within each one of us.

Dare to dream, and watch your world transform through the creative power that is within you!

 

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

~ Albert Einstein 


The Dawning of the Day

It always seems premature somehow to arise before day has broken. Before that glorious ball of fire that lights and warms the earth sees fit to rise, there is surely beauty in the pre-dawn. A sacred silence before resort workers hit the highway – bound for the altered worlds that irrigation and obscene amounts of money create like worlds contained within themselves.

Missing the daybreak, I am content in conserving my contemplative energy for the sun’s navel as he lowers himself onto his bed of horizon each evening. Whether melting into the sea or flashing green like a strobe, theatrics reign here on the north shore of Hawaii island. Old Lā always bows out in superb style, night after night. Sometimes low clouds obscure his passage, but rays that bleed through streaks and puffs of pink, grey and black slice through these obscurations as if their source is tilting his head back and laughing. Zeus in his chariot pulled by four black horses, necks arched, nostrils flaring, thunders through his sky. He is not daunted, and liquid joy seeps out, around and through.

Sunsets have always drawn me into their palette, as saturated colors in a painting are wont to do. Watercolors belong to the dawn – those muted, diluted rosy hues streaked with a wet brush onto pebbled canvas. Living in Maine for thirty-two years, I caught sunrise over the first mountaintop to glimpse the light of day in the eastern United States – Cadillac – but once. It was a cloudy morning, and though fog proves lovely as it spills over Maine’s coastal islands like water over the backs of porcupines, it further muted morning’s hues as if a painter had swished her brushes one time too many in the same glass of water.

image: Sue Ann Hodges

Instead my days climaxed in a sun setting over the hills surrounding Goose Pond; eyes dancing with summer damselflies flittering about on gossamer wings, tickling shoulders as we pulled oars through dark water. While beavers settled into lodges after a long day’s work, tails slapping, osprey nestled into the tallest treetops. The buzz of cicadas joined bullfrogs in a nightly serenade that waned with the flair of Venus emerging into darkening skies, gathering less brilliant companions to her flanks until they congregated like bees populating a hive, turning out the sweetest product imaginable.

image: msnbc.msn.com

Stars are the reward for ushering day into night. Last December I witnessed a full lunar eclipse – stepping out, at intervals, into the wee morning hours to photograph and gape, dumbstruck, at what early humans surely considered a portent. It was magnificent enough that I would repeat the ritual without hesitation. But until then, I’m content to sleep until daylight restores my vision and breaks over the land.

Riding That Train

Writers write, preaches teacher Larry Donner (portrayed by comedian Billy Crystal) in Throw Momma From the Train. Most of us do, in one way or another. I set aside every Tuesday and Wednesday to hammer out blog posts, though if I felt inspired on a Sunday, Monday or Thursday, I certainly follow that muse. It turns out for Larry, however, that he is struck with writer’s block, blamed on his ex-wife who becomes a best-selling author by revealing issues that plagued their marriage. This blow to his ego is understandably crippling, but he can’t seem to pull free from the paralysis of cynicism and self pity. Not until he reclaims his passion for living does he discover a renewed vigor, spurred on by his mischievous student Owen (played by Danny de Vito).

Though annoyed throughout the film by it, Larry desperately needs Owen’s zany Trickster energy to spark his creative buzz, though it certainly takes awhile for him to recognize this. He hobbles along as though mortally wounded, offering half-hearted advice to his students and clearly suffering the daily grind of living. Even when he allots time each day for inspiration, the fact eludes him that he is sacrificing not only his pride, but spontaneity and gusto for life, itself. His raison d-etre for so long has been demonizing his ex, and it’s sapping all his vital energy. Owen provides a catalyst to snap Larry out of it by hatching a plot to kill his own mother (played brilliantly by the character actor Anne Ramsey) for her venomous son-bashing. Owen’s idea is after all serious, making it more diabolical than Larry’s ongoing fantasy of killing his ex-wife. Intrigued, Larry agrees to Owen’s harebrained scheme to swap murders, Owen killing Larry’s ex and Larry killing Owen’s momma. (Owen hatches this idea by watching and re-watching an old Hitchcock classic.

What unravels is the stuff of a well-woven humorous plot, and this unlikely friendship establishes the fertile ground in which Larry finds himself thriving – reenergized, reinvigorated and, finally, writing, once again. Like his former wife, Larry winds up succeeding after writing about felt experience – his convoluted journey with Owen. And the surprise is that Owen, in his own inimitable fashion, reaps a fortune by writing a children’s book about the same adventures from a wholly unique perspective!

Every week I wonder if I have two more posts inside of me. And then I get out on my bike and, working up a sweat, survey ideas and concepts as they shape, snap and sizzle in my mind. My eyes drink in nature and fellow creatures and a virtual lifetime of experience and pondering percolates up and into my frontal lobe where I am able to begin crafting these observations into story lines. If I don’t allow fear or negativity to creep into that creative space, I am ever rewarded with a plethora of viewpoints from which to glean offerings.

Factual as well as fantastical creativity feeds from the stuff of which life is made. Unlike Larry, I have never experienced blockages to doing what I love – only that which I deem distasteful brings about that kind of resistance. Feeling stifled is a terrible thing. I often ponder the meaning of words, and inspiration is one of them: to breathe is to inspire. Maybe that’s why I find physical movement helpful in dislodging nuggets from my sluggish brain. That and the knowledge that we can never really run out of ideas. Repeating themes run like veins throughout history. Yet nobody can convey a story quite like you or me. It’s our voice that is unique in the telling.

image: Bela Johnson - forest floor, Pololu Valley, HI

Heaven is In Your Mind

view out our window - North Kohala, Hawaii island

And so it begins. Shafts of light steal through dawn’s dark mantle, pierced first and only by birdsong. Slate grey skies erupt overhead onto a landscape perpetually in need of their offering.

Through stillness, the distant drone of a two-lane highway portends the start of day for resort workers, bound for some of the most magnificent real estate on Hawaii island. Massive lava landscapes crushed to gravel and blanketed with loam, sod and tropical foliage. Classic structures poured upon pristine waterfront. Guarded bays safe to swim in the normal chop of the channel. Those who hail from generations of warriors and plantation workers may as well enjoy it – as they tool around in electric carts, surveying, maintaining, planting, shuttling jumbles of guests. Others of us must pass the gatekeeper, denied access when the beach lot is filled (or at the gatekeeper’s whim). Thus the resort has final say on who enters their well staked out spotless stretch of sand. Laws be damned, this is wild country, for better or for worse depending on how one views it. Money and influence are particularly powerful here, yet the drive to live and let live, the spirit of Aloha, remains alive and well.

image: travel.usnews.com - Four Seasons Hotel, Hawaii island

Our community of North Kohala is unique. Locals of all ethnic persuasions roam the streets and canyons, nodding and smiling in greeting to sometimes-baffled tourists. City dwellers scratch heads in confusion that anyone would take time to heartily relate in the space of the day, in the midst of nature or hamlet. They have learned that sharing is not to be trusted; suspect others of motives ulterior. Reading about us fails to register deeply in the cortex and the automatic response at first blush is still to turn away. Feign disinterest, disregard, disengagement. I used to find this offensive until I understood it better, being one of those people who gives without guile and curse the consequences. For anywhere in the world there is beauty, folks will ever be drawn to the peace of that place.

Pololu Valley, Big Island

Heaven is where we find it, though sometimes it’s easier to believe we’re part of the painting while ensconced in Nature’s palette. The soul-soothing quality of feet in sand insidiously heals grief, separation from Our Mother the Earth. The caress of tropical air envelops the bereft, filling lungs and longing in equal measure. That which we yearn for is always around us somewhere. We have only to watch, wait and listen for it to make itself known, calming the rising tide of panic in these and other times, past and future.

tourists walking along Mauna Kea Beach - Big Island, HI

Our Hawaiian Winter

Evening steals across the sky with the subtlety of dispersing silvery tails of jet liners; like ink seeping into a desk blotter. It is fall here in North Kohala, and our winter is fast approaching. Night falls quickly as if caught off guard, the sun dropping into the sea with amazing facility, its sheer bulk and volume weighing onto blazing bones heavy from holding up our titillating visions of daylight. Birds chatter frenetically – not the urgent vocalizations of young in springtime; rather a rapid nightsong trilled out on one long desperate breath. Then it’s over. Dusk descends upon the land.

I have lived in the frigid northeast as well as on a Pacific island or two. Seasons still present themselves, if I attune to their subtleness. In marked contrast to a strong four seasons, Hawaiian winds shift like the hips of hula dancers. Blowing haze obliterates a clear view of neighbor islands – north here stares down south on the other, where rains finally arrive to drizzle and spit at parched earth. Night and morning each present a welcome chill to the air. Mid morning brings increasing tradewinds and intermittent showers, launching arcs of prismatic color into azure skies. Dogs are restless, barking sporadically all day long as mongoose and birds scurry about, startled in scanty patches of dried guinea grass and shrubs. Soon an emerald blanket of privacy will return, and we in turn will haul mowers into service after months of sitting idle in the garage.

This is the vision of the land, cast from the belly of volcanoes into clumps of jagged jet black rock. Sandy beaches arrived eons after. Tourists flock to resorts we residents consider fantasy encampments thrust unnaturally onto stark landscapes. Without water and plenty of it, abundant foliage would ebb back, revealing miles of lava beds and little else. Like standing naked before others in a locker room, the vulnerability some feel when stripped of golf courses and beach loungers must be akin to a good hiding from the powers that be. Seeking solace in wild places evokes healing in some, but for others it is simply punitive.

And so we ready ourselves, countrified humans and breeding humpbacks, bluegreen ocean and jagged shoreline, for the onslaught of snow birds already overdosed on the impending harshness doled out by Mother Nature in their part of the world. Our breath mingles with that exhaled from every far corner of this great and wide world, and we discover, to our continuing amazement, the living spirit of aloha under a spreading canopy of heaven.

 

Sun going down in North Kohala - taken from our deck
Winter skies over North Kohala - Maui's Haleakala in the distance
rainbows over Puna district, where lava still flows from Mme. Pele

The hair of the dog

It’s sitting right here on my desk, the unsent letter to the IRS. I thought to write it because, well, they might appreciate an explanation as to why we haven’t paid our taxes and might not yet for awhile. Then I was out riding my bike and found a little dog by the side of the road, obviously struck by a car and left there to suffer. Two other women witnessed her as well right in front of their professional office, and were ready only to call the humane society, who would have promptly put her down. They didn’t want to soil their hands with her, and barked suggestions from afar when I gently took her tiny head into my hands and gazed into her frightened eyes. Their excuse was ‘no money, no time,’ which I could have claimed with equal vigor. Yet my decision was made with a clear head, and when I phoned my husband, he was immediately in accord that we would do whatever we could. Of course.

No collar, no chip, loaded with fleas and formerly nursing a litter of pups somewhere in her recent past, this small being is barely a year old, give or take a couple of months. One thing led to another and we are trying to coax the little creature back to health, if such a thing can even be expected. She has yet to put any weight on her two hind legs but seems to have some feeling in them, though the vet says only time will tell. There remains a stack of papers to file, floors strewn with our other two dogs’ hair and dishes in the sink. And then there are the unpaid bills in a stack roughly equal to the file-worthy one.

Life changes on a dime, and those of us willing to be open and prepared to encounter the unpredictable are living it. The rest is just memorization, not really participation. And if sometimes that which inserts itself into our comfort zone feels overwhelming, this is the stuff of living – not the papers, the corporate demands, the manic housecleaning. Life supporting life as it does in nature, with no expectation of result. Death occurs every moment, and the symphony of creation is not ours to conduct. We can only play our part when the music is set in front of our noses, sometimes last minute, often without rehearsal. There is a fundamental rightness in this, a prioritizing of values that streams into the foreground like a runner breaking ribbon – and though there might ever be a close second, there’s rarely a tie – even if the first squeaks past by only a hair.

 

image: shadow-of-the-statue.blogspot.com

FALLOW

My handwriting is atrocious at best. That sprung, I have always written (save for the academic) in longhand. Only recently have I become lazy in over-using a keyboard out of habit. This has resulted in a stilted proclivity not to write much of anything at all. Easy to blame abandonment by the muse, especially in the face of life fraught with its share of challenges.

What invitation is declined when technology supplants flow from cosmos to graphite – how does the intermittent caress of a hound’s cheek or shifting positions from supine to seated alter the creative process? Or is it the time of day – brilliant sunshine on my shoulders would only cloud an LCD screen … Does the soft glow of my bedside lamp casting golden upon the simple lined page grant more poetic license than a heated box merely prompting brain to punch keys (and what gets omitted)?

How do sunlight, wind through a panax hedge, two lazy dogs by my side and the urge to pause and reflect (thus gazing out toward the sea or sweeping expansive emerald fields dotted with cattle) – how does the lone frigate bird circling overhead or the distant drone of tires on asphalt, the mellow tone of windchimes or the shiver of a summer breeze contribute to a fecund flowing of words onto paper?

Yet and thus – begins the day.