Because

I hope I lost 20 pounds today.  That’s not likely, but if I had, it would only indicate how much energy I expended over the last few days with a work project that infiltrated my personal life.  I learned a lot and some good came out of it, so no apologies.  It’s time to sit on the deck and reflect, listen to the birds, and feel the sun.  A good meal might be nice, too.

This song is for all the people that were affected, especially, the families:

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Moon Fairy in a Tree

Sometimes we just have to open our eyes and see those things that are in front of us that do not immediately catch our attention.  Then…they do, suddenly, unexpectedly.  How many times have you walked by an amazing sight, and saw nothing but where you were headed?  Maybe you were driving too fast, or walking to a meeting that started five minutes ago, or passing by all the fresh produce to get to the bag of cookies.   Ah, yes, far too often.  I know this one.  Until, that is, you are forced to remember.

Once in a while, your mind stops and sees something that happens in front of you and your attention is captivated by the moment.  Try these on…just one at a time:

  • a memory of a lost loved one
  • a flower in bloom
  • a gift from long ago
  • a meal made by your lover
  • an unexpected sunset
  • a fully-loaded EBT card (food stamps)
  • a new bike
  • a $20-bill in a jacket pocket, long forgotten
  • a newborn’s smile
  • a card from an old friend
  • an earring your mother used to wear
  • a timecard
  • a credit card bill
  • a report card
  • a hat
  • a full ashtray
  • a reflection in a window
  • an eviction notice
  • an ambulance in your driveway
  • a book cover
  • a sock that s/he left in your bedroom
  • a wedding invitation
  • a bonfire on the beach
  • a new leaf on an ailing tree
  • a comment on your blog
  • an IV tube in your friend’s arm
  • a bonus check from work
  • a bird flying above your head
  • a refund check from the IRS
  • an empty milk carton in the refrigerator
  • a 5000-song playlist
  • a new sweatshirt
  • an old pair of pajamas
  • a ripe tomato
  • a new song heard in an old location
  • an old song heard in a new location
  • an entry in a journal you were never supposed to read

I remember these scenes often, and so many more.  This is a very small list, given a global perspective.  But, it’s my perspective in this moment.  I may not want to look, but I do, much like the traffic accident on the side of the road.  I don’t want to see someone’s life changing in such a short time in space, but it’s always there, just outside my line of sight.  It’s also there, embedded in my mind’s memory.  But, our lives do change in these tiny freeze frames.  Click, click, click.

What sustains us?  That’s for you to decide.

For me, it’s my attention to the things that are in front of me, the things that are a part of me, the gentle healing nature of nature.  What forces you to remember?  Will you allow yourself to look and pay attention?

Moon Fairy in a Tree

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NOT on the bucket list

Dave and I spent our vacation at home this week, mostly.  At the last minute, we decided to take a short trip out to the Sonoma Coast for a couple of nights.  Good decision.  On the morning after our first night at River’s End in Jenner, CA, we woke up to a view of the Russian River meeting the Pacific Ocean.  We’ve seen this view many, many times in our years here in Northern California.  But, on that morning – yesterday – we watched a group of adventurers paddling their way from the River to the Sea, and it looked so easy, so peaceful.

For years, I had sworn that I had no interest in kayaking.  Much like jumping out of a plane with a parachute, I just didn’t get it.  I’m afraid of tidal currents in an irrational way, so this was not a likely interest – working my ass off to steer a small sliver of fiberglass across cross currents – river/sea, sea/river.  The winds were calm, though, and the light was inviting.  We had no schedule – just living in the moment. I figured the risk was low, but the high…very high.

We drove to town and found the kayak rental guy, Brian, who helped us into the river’s waters with instructions about how to paddle, how to beach, and how to make it back before we got too tired.  At times like this, it’s important to remember that time is irrelevant.  And, that time is/was now.

If Dave and I hadn’t gone out on the water, we wouldn’t have seen the Blue Herons flying across the water so close we could have reached out and touched them.  We wouldn’t have learned that we are still dancing, no matter what the terrain, nor would we have been able to watch the sea lions swimming in to shore to feed their young.

Yes, our arms hurt on fighting the river’s current back into town, but that’s when we were most in our element – aim for the red bucket on the shore – that’s where we launched.  Kayaking toward the red bucket was never on my list of things I wanted to do before I die, but damn it, we were gonna get there in record time.  As tired as we were, we paddled in unison more in time with the universe on that last leg, that at any time on our short trip.  When we beached the kayak, it felt like an idea whose time had come.  Okay, so he had to help me out of the kayak and up onto the sand, but, hey, we’re together for reasons we can’t always predict.

Nature draws us in and we are the benefactors.  Image

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For a friend, because it’s for all of us…

I wrote this post several years ago (1/16/08) on a blog for which I have no username or password (can’t remember them, so sad).  While the words may still be true for me on any given day, it is probably more true (is there such a thing?) for a friend of mine today.  Good tidings, friend.

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Mindful Regression

Some memories take us back in time to thoughts of loved ones, fun times, the good ol’ days, the bad ol’ days, successes, and near misses.  They can bring up all sorts of dormant emotions, and we may or may not want to revisit them.  Normally, we have a choice about making that trip down memory lane, and other times, the memory slams into us so hard, that choice doesn’t enter the picture.

This happened to me yesterday [remember, this was 1/16/08].  I was in a fairly decent frame of mind to start my day.  Then, SLAM.  I read an article before leaving for work that took me to a place of great sadness in my life, a place that will always be a part of me, but not all of me.  I couldn’t shake off the sadness, though.  It was like it crawled inside my mind, and infected all the work I regularly do to stay clear of getting stuck in that time.  So disappointing, to know that no matter how hard I worked at pulling it together all day, the memories surrounding that time will always be there, and it takes so little to throw me into regression.

By the evening, I was a mess.  By the late night hours, many of them spent doing research on the subject, and writing emails, I had slowed down some of the agitation and anger.  Not much, but enough to go to sleep.

This morning, there it was again.  I took the day off work, something I rarely do, even for fun.  I figured if I wasn’t able to process my thoughts clearly, I would be of little help to others at work.  It was a good choice, and soon I realized I could make more choices about how to spend my day, that would feel like I was being actively mindful of that very sad part of my life, and could do something to throw the information I had read in the article, back at the world.  I picked an activity that had relevance, went out into the world, talked to friends who got it, and came home relieved.  The coffee wasn’t a bad idea either.

I had to choose finding a way back to me, the me I am today.  I did.  I’m back.

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This is how I look today.  Blooming.  Some of you might say, “bloomin’ idiot”.  I say “Blooming brilliant.  Delayed?  Maybe.  Who cares?  Not me”.  I hope my friend sees herself in the brilliance of this rose bloom.  You are.  Got it?  You are.

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If, after death, there are roses

It seems nearly impossible to put aside our long-held spiritual beliefs without gaining a whole lot of spiritual growth.  No one ever said that the dogma you were taught as a child, a young adult, or continue to believe as an adult cannot be altered in a positive light.  By that, I don’t mean that everything you learned and in which you held/hold faith is negative – far from it.  I just mean, that as a thinking person, one who is open to new experiences, new insights, and new relationships you may also possibly be open to a new worldview, new heights of intellectual and spiritual knowing, if given half a chance.

I’m often surprised by the events that act as catalysts to newly birthed concepts, ideas, philosophies, and spiritual belief systems.  I’ve typically observed these changes as agents of  “the search”, as those that would have a dramatic impact on how we function in our daily routines and frame what we find important.  Most frequently, I’ve seen and lived by and through these examples that cause me to examine my personal context: birth, marriage, parenting, divorce, long-term illness, and death.  I’ve also seen and experienced these examples: injuries, sudden illness, graduations, new jobs, job loss, financial gain (inheritance included), financial loss, and violence.  On more rare occasions, I’ve seen unexpected joy by whatever means, serve as a new or renewed motivator of reassessing our former closely held values, tenets, and traditions.

Today, I saw another one, one I would not have anticipated.  I saw the simple commitment to a job well done as having the ability to open doors to truth – one’s own personal truth.  At day’s end (my workday, that is), I found myself in a social setting where the attendees – friends, family, and coworkers – let down the walls of their preconceived notions of what’s right and good in the world, and share a small part of what makes them tick.  Only one of the group was an old friend, a very old, very good old friend.  Yet, in hearing small snippets of what makes each person’s life meaningful, I found that in the new, they were all, truly, old friends made new again by our gathering.

If, after death, we are all still united in the unknown yet amazing concept of an everlasting consciousness, then my workday ended with a vision of a job well done.  I am choosing to hold tight to that belief, knowing that it could change tomorrow with another life event – that we are circling the universe in collective energy orbs, crossing over one another, enjoying light and liberty, and standing together in the unity of the moment.

A rose is a rose is a rose, no matter the age or history.  We are all old friends of various chronological origins.

Old Friends, by Simon & Garfunkel.  I can’t imagine this song will ever fade.  Rather, I imagine it circling through the electro-magnetic field forever.  I need no stretch of my imagination to see myself sitting on a park bench at age 70 with any one of these new/old friends from today’s short interlude.

 

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Rock’n’Roll

Pattie, a friend from my jr. and sr. high schools, wrote me on Facebook on Friday to say that she was going to the Van Halen concert that night with Julio, another old friend from the same years.  We grew up with Eddie, Alex, and David Lee so this was no surprise.  (David Lee’s little sister, Lisa, and I were roommates at a ballet conference in Seattle, WA, when I was 16 and she was what, 14, 15?)  I hadn’t heard from Pattie in a while, and our messages were short.

I reflected back that evening with Dave, remembering that Eddie used to sit in front of me in my 9th grade typing class at Marshall Jr. High School in Pasadena, CA, and that in their early days, Van Halen was a rival band to my brother’s garage band.  Pattie stayed in the Los Angeles area since high school, whereas I moved out as soon as I was able – to Berkeley, CA, when I was 20, in 1975.  And, since then, I’ve moved up and down the West Coast of the U.S. more times than I can count.  And, uh, to Florida.  (What was I thinking?  I wilt in humidity.)

Back in January of this year, I visited with another group of old friends in Pasadena, and they wanted to know if I was coming down for the concert.  All I said was, “hell, no”.  I’ve done my time in big concert halls with rock’n’roll bands.  I don’t regret the old days, nor the excitement of being around big-name bands.  My brother, who was also a musician during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, gave me plenty of exposure to that particular limelight.  So funny, how times change.

This is my current idea of rock’n’roll, a rose bush by that name.  I wouldn’t trade this photograph, taken in my front yard a few days ago, for being in that sensational world for much of anything.  I say, “for much of anything” because I can’t imagine what elements in the universe might conspire to take me back there.  (Really?  Anything?)  Given today’s low-key activities with Dave – shopping at Target for cat food, watching an old movie, and eating healthy food – going to a rock concert these days just doesn’t seem attractive.

These two blooms, on the other hand, are beautiful, and remind me that rock’n’roll is a state of mind – one that I visit in my car, in my family room, in the kitchen, and in my memories.  Wild, colorful, and full of amazing harmonies.

Just because they are back on the stage, I post this song, one of Nat’s favorites.  (He and I went to see them at the Key Arena in Seattle sometime back in my memory – 2005?  Owen didn’t like Van Halen, so wouldn’t go with us.  I doubt David Lee will bare his chest in the new concerts, er, I hope he won’t.  (My two cents.)  Dude, you’re older than I am.  I hope you’re in better shape.)

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Opening

An old friend of Owen’s, Jordan, used to tell me in the year he lived with us in 2010, “you can’t unfuck someone you slept with”.  While I understood that we can’t undo our “acts”, I argued that we can unravel the difficult implications that our acts preconceive (so to speak).  I think we came to an understanding, though it’s unclear if either of us ever got each other’s perspective.  We talked this conversation into the wee hours.  We compared notes.  We lived in the moment, in our garage, which was our special place of contemplation and consternation, and accepted our different views of the world.  Not so different, in the end.

We wanted the same thing – to undo what is done.  A hard assignment, but not impossible, if given life and heart in the circumstances.  And, that’s where language takes up residence.  It’s also where life and death take hold.  We can change what is in the here and now, in the present life-affirming moments.  We can use words to illustrate our thoughts and feelings and hope others will get it.  We cannot change what is done in the world of biology.  Life will begin.  Life will end.  Yet, energy will not…begin or end.  It is constant, moving across life and not-life.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately with Nat, my older son.  He is a genuinely complex human being with the gentleness and acceptance of a Buddhist monk, the ferocity of a black bear trapped, the heart of a parent, and the mind of a researcher hell-bent on finding a cure for political and economic disparity.  He…well, he infects me with inspiration and motivation to do good in the world.  He both accepts and avoids the pain of loss.  Don’t we all?  I love listening to him when he’s on a rant.  He makes me laugh.  He makes me cry.  Mostly, though, he makes me think and feel.  I’m a lucky mother.  Nat offers me everything I can’t provide for myself, within myself – the diversity of language learned in a different time zone, a different era from the one in which I was born.  Lucky, lucky me.

If I could do anything relevant in this life, I would, indeed, unfuck the world.  Words are not likely to accomplish this task in one fell swoop, but they are a start.  Words, as a human tool for communication, have positive power.  Sometimes.  At other times, words are weapons.  I have used both.  I continue to do so, despite my studies on this subject.  Both positions provide power within their own contexts.

I prefer finding words that can change one’s heart (often, mine), and frequently find words that can cut to the core.  These are times when I need to breathe into the heart of truth, and cut just as quickly, to the core…of truth.  Why?  Because balance is the ultimate goal.  Words are tools of change, tools of unfuckedness.

Sitting on my deck in the late hours of a Tuesday night, I feel and hear words.  I listen to music and review memories of sweeter times.  I remember my day at work.  I recall phone conversations from the morning and throughout the day.  I worry about my family.  Worry never served anyone.  I hear these words often, “thank you so much”.  Worry gone.

Last year, October 15, 2011, Michael (Nat’s and Owen’s dad), and I stood in acknowledgment of the Occupy Movement in Santa Rosa, California.  We looked on the crowd and talked of the old days of Viet Nam activism, draft dodging, pacifism, and how we have not had a similar mission in a socially responsible realm in the near past.  We were abundantly clear, on that sunny corner near City Hall and in our collective memories, that our culture is more likely to accept mediocrity than to use our energy for change.  Sad.  Yet, radical acceptance dictates that we will forge on.  Not sad.

I won’t post the photo I took of the woman who held the sign in Santa Rosa that October day, that stated on the end flap of a cardboard box, “unfuck the world”, because I don’t have her permission.  You can find plenty of references to this phrase on the Internet.  Instead, I can post her sentiment, which has affected me since that day (and, long before, but I was sleeping).  And, I can post this song, which says what I hope will circle the planet – “Opening”, not in a viral way, but in a spiritual way.  The spiritual way is often bereft of words, and oddly, feels more powerful.

Philip Glass, “Opening” from Glassworks.

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What Will You Remember?

Somewhere back in my feeble memory, I remember this…time passing.  I live my life at light speed these days, have for far too long, and all too infrequently, I recall what it’s like to truly live in the moment.  And, then, if I am able and make the conscious choice, I am alive, simultaneously insignificant and immense, sitting on the top of a red bluff in the northern New Mexico desert for a few minutes – if only in my memory, my mind, my heart, my body, and whatever constitutes my spirit.  All of it.

The high desert is not so different from those times in my life when I made the choice to be awake and aware in the present moment, where time and no-time are one and the same.  Mystics call this enlightenment.  I call it now.  I’ve been fortunate to experience that same mystery in time/no-time at a rock concert, a ballet, in childbirth, in child death, listening to the neighborhood kids playing basketball, and when Nat gives me a big ol’ bear hug before he goes on another trip for work.

Sometimes, it hits me when I’m sitting in the backyard, underneath the trees, sun shining on my face, and watching Dave in the kitchen making our dinner for the night.  I remember that in this very same acknowledgment, this very same acceptance…just as precious as this moment is…that I really lived in all of those experiences, too.  I live in them moment to moment to moment.  Always now.  Gladly…and not so…but so…all of it, ultimately, critical to noticing I’m here and so are you.  Time and no-time.

Here’s a moment in time from my past…and my present, “Look into your heart, there’s nothing left to hide”…Bryan Adams, from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  How do you remember your past, your present?  The future lives in your imagination.  How do you imagine yours?

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Dirt Rookies

I love going to the local dump, the landfill/garbage/recycling/toxic waste plant a few miles south of us in Petaluma.  Dave and I go there to not only dispose of debris and recyclables, but to pick up compost for the front and back yards where we are working diligently to make something beautiful out of a lot of dirt.

Our front yard is still mostly dirt after the beneficiaries of the former owner of our house had some trees removed and left the roots so deeply embedded that we couldn’t plant anything.  The roots were from two very old redwoods that had virtually destroyed the front of the house – the porch and roof eventually lifted about 4 inches above where they had been built.  (It’s a long story, and one that cost a fair amount of cash (ours) to repair.)

The county no longer runs the local dump as a landfill, but primarily as a transfer station.  I don’t know where they take our garbage and recycling, but it moves in and out of there like a well-oiled machine.  Yes, they take oil recycling, too.  And, old paint, but only on certain days.

When Nat and Owen were kids and used to go with us to the dump after a spring cleaning, it was still run as a landfill.  Recycling wasn’t what it is today, and most people emptied their truckloads of metal, wood, greens, household debris, and clearly reusable items into the pits.  The pits moved throughout the acreage such that on one trip, you would be throwing your stuff off the back of the truck facing west, and on another trip, you would be facing east.  Because we only went a few times a year, I never saw how the operation was made new over the course of months.  But, I always got a kick out of remembering what it looked like the last time, and how differently it looked on each new trip.

I will always remember the awful smell of the dump back in the old days.  It was a stench that has stayed with me since the first time I visited.  In the last few weeks, accompanying Dave to pick up compost, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact of no-smell.  Who are these garbage engineers that have figured out how to create acre after acre of places to unload our cast-offs, all the while considering how much of what we use everyday is just crap that needs a place to land without destruction?  Whoever they are, they are my new heroes.

One section of the dump is now committed to recycling yard greens and waste.  There is an area for clean wood, which can be picked up for virtually cents on the dollar – quite handy for building garden containers and borders.  The wood is cheap in comparison to new lumber from the local big box home improvement stores.  You may have to be more creative in figuring out what size and shape to build your containers, but that’s part of the fun.

Another area is for compost, and this is where I can’t wait to return each weekend when we have ideas for planting new varieties of edibles and ornamentals in the yard.  As we drive up the hill, watching the birds flying overhead appearing to have more fun playing with their tiny pilot birds than any of the frequent sky-bound guests above our house, I can feel the warmth of the soil before we enter the one-way path around the piles of dirt.

As we drive into the circle, we look for our parking spot, and are hopeful that we can park near our selected compost pile.  When we are there for only a few bags of dirt, we park in the area designated for the vehicles too small for the half- and full-yard loads.  This is where I have the most fun.  Many of the customers are new to the experience of purchasing recycled dirt, and they ask questions of each other (and us) like:

  • Where do you get the bags?
  • How much do they cost?
  • Should I pack the bags myself or should I move up to the area where I can get a whole truckload?
  • Where do we pay?
  • I didn’t bring a shovel, how do I pack my bags?
  • How much does this compost cost?
  • Which compost should I choose?
  • What’s the difference between “organic high test” and the “amended compost”?

I usually just stand by the truck and listen.  This is so much fun to watch people who have only bought 2 cubic foot bags of compost and potting soil from the big box stores for years, try out their dirt wings.  I answer questions as I know the answers, and say, “I don’t know, try the trailer” a lot.  So far, this season, the sun has been shining on our visits to the compost extravaganza.  Sun, dirt, birds…a virtual smorgasbord for my feet2earth disposition.

People from all walks of life show up here – the regulars in their trucks, who drive straight to the far end of the circle and wait for the skip loaders to fill their truck beds with yards and half-yards; the privileged couples in their pristine sedans, waiting for instructions, and covering the trunks of their mid-size and luxury cars with plastic bags to protect the carpeted floors that usually only carry leather travel bags that typically prepare for vacations on far-away beaches; and the absolute newbies who show up in beater cars (many remind me of most of my vehicles over the years) asking which dirt is best for tomatoes.  This is an entire community of people who want nothing more than to plant gardens of all styles and outcomes – salsa, anyone?  I get such a kick out of observing people trying to find their ways back to the old ways – but with newly engineered processes for recycling yard waste, and making it all new in their yards, their gardens.

The comic feature to these trips to the dump are captured in the conversations of the dirt rookies.  I often wonder how many of them happened here by accident, or through the advice of neighbors or adult children who can’t believe their parents still think they can build their gardens with $4.99 bags of 2-cubic foot compost bags purchased at Home Depot.  The whole experience for me is one of enlightenment, staying present in the moment, watching the birds overhead, and answering questions that anyone who can read a sign should be able to figure out.

I love the dump.  I love it when I discover how far we have come in recycling not only our garbage, but the greens waste from the local vineyards and home remodeling.  We live in amazing times.  We have so much information at our disposal.  And, we have so many disposables to reuse.

A half-yard of perfectly good compost purchased at the Meecham Road landfill costs about 20 bucks.  The same amount of questionable compost purchased at Home Depot costs between 4 and 5 times as much.  (My calculations may be off here because I’m always so interested in the conversations, that I pay little attention to the figures.)  How do you want to spend your money to tend a garden?  I want more for less.  And, with nothing more than an afternoon in the truck with Dave, iPhone camera in hand, shovel in the truck bed, and $20, I can arrive home with enough dirt to plant wildflowers and rose bushes in my yard.

All I need is the sun, a short drive south, a shovel, and dirt.  I am home.  How is this not an adventure?  It is.  The monarch butterfly that visited our front yard last weekend is testament to how beautiful he is, hovering above our landfill compost.  Both, equally contributing to my personal landscape.  Dontcha think?

dirt dodger

 

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If

I’ve had a challenging few months at work.  Whatever happens at work is often duplicated in ways large and small at home.  At the moment, I have little ability to separate work from home, and this is difficult, because I don’t often identify myself as my “job”.  I’ve worked hard to create my personal identity as a protected self-image, separate from my public/work identity.  Yet, lately, my days at work bleed over into my evenings.  My evenings relegate me to sleepless nights, awakening in anticipation of days at work.  Not a false dilemma (either/or, black/white – because  I know I have choices), just something to observe, acknowledge, and accept with a radical approach to acceptance.

My radical “acceptance” approach is focused on discernment at the start of every workday.  However, by the afternoon, I am often distracted and searching for ways to hold on.  I hold on to my own values and traditions while accepting those of employees, friends, and family.  Not an easy task, but not one unknown to others, whether staff, management, executives, or my own true world when arriving in my driveway.

Mine is not a unique story.  We all do this, to a degree.  My personal and professional mission is to communicate effectively with the “big dogs” and be available to the “everyday people”.  At work, I am considered an executive and an everyday person. I cross the lines regularly.  I do not introduce myself as the “Director of Human Resources”.  I just say, “Hi, I’m Linda.  I work in Human Resources”.

When confronted with extreme conflict at work (which is rare, but more frequent, lately), I flash with indignation; listen when listening is the preferred (and only) venue; lash out at inappropriate times; and sometimes cry when everyone goes home.  The lines of communication are broad, and traverse a landscape so immense I can hardly see that far.  Yet, I see.  I’m one of the lucky ones.

Joni Mitchell’s song, If, is an interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”.  Sometimes in the night, I hear her music, and I embody his words.  If this song is the last thing I remember upon falling asleep, when I wake I hear these words, “If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” I know my day might be long.  Most of my recent days are long.  On the short days, I come home, glad for the humor in my day, glad for the camaraderie of my staff, and work in the garden.

I am fairly adept at knowing the difference between cognitive dissonance and reality.  So, I do not start most days enveloped in a coat of armor, determined to defend my position.  I start most days with an open mind, an open heart.  How do you start your days?  How do you end them?

I might rather have dreams be my master.  Huh.  I hope I have the fight and the insight.

If, Joni Mitchell (an interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem)…

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