front yard renovations

I’ve refrained from watering the front lawn for two years – in spite of that, it’s managed to not be totally killed. Go Bermuda grass!

Problem is, I don’t want grass, I want edibles and medicinals and things that smell good and feed pollinators – so the project that’s been taking my time lately has been planning the removal of the lawn and its replacement with fun native and mediterranean perennials (a list too long and something only another plant-geek would love, so I’ll not put it here), some productive trees (olive, jujube and maybe a plum, also pineapple guava) and some small earthworks to keep rainwater from the roof on site as long as possible.

As soon as I can, I’ll put Before & After pics up. Right now I only, obviously, have the Before set and they’re less dramatic on their own. At least I’m hoping that’s the case – fingers crossed that I’ll be able to pull an attractive design together that doesn’t create an inhospitable mess for all the plants!

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the lovely idea of synchronicity

(This old post on synchronicity was from my old blog and it’s just been sitting around. I realized it’s kind of relevant to my work on a short story – I had a realization the other day that connected an old understanding of my writing process to a new set of information. In the same week, I forwarded some information to a friend who found it relevant to something she was working on – but hadn’t considered in this particular way – and it all congealed around writing she’s been doing and other creative and life endeavors. Very timely for both of us. Anyway, I thought I’d resurrect this, just for the heck of it)

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Like most people, I’ve experienced synchronicity in my life. It’s a mind-blown moment with meaningfulness  revealed out of previously-unconnected, now suddenly-relevant events, sights, experiences or occurrences.

Synchronicity requires attention – to details and connections. For what is synchronicity without being noticed? It is nothing without awareness, without a participant.

Sometimes I wish for synchronicity, for a sign to counteract the wishing. Of course the wishing is itself a sign that I long for connection with deep meaning that seems to be missing on a daily basis.

It could be suggested that I am simply blind to that which I seek, that it’s there, all along. All the synchronous events, the interlinking meaningfulnesses.

I like to hear about synchronicity at play in people’s lives, it reminds me that indeed, something must be there, this life really is strangely mysterious, and that something might, sometime, be revealed to me.

Some deny value in attributing meaning to synchronous events. Generally this opinion seems to stem from those who uphold a materialistic world view that suggests only material reality, what can be materially proven, has validity.

But I find closed-mindedness distasteful, no matter what costume it wears and would rather take a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. After all, as we’re only a fraction of the universe connected to but not comprehending the whole, I don’t think any human, or even the sum of all human knowledge, knows it all.

I would suggest this: there is no sensory or perceptive organ or ability that is unnecessary.

Nature doesn’t create superfluous perceiving capacities. Organisms have the ability to detect ultrasound because there is ultrasound. Humans hear at 12 to 20,000  hertz, but other animals rely on information transferred at lower and higher frequencies. Some organisms can see (utilizing visible light) because information is transmitted in that way. Plant roots can sense soil nutrients outside their immediate vicinity and then grow toward them whereas we stick our fingers in soil and know nothing more than moisture level and basic physical composition (rocky, sandy, clay, etc). Just because we don’t have certain perceptive capabilities doesn’t mean that things outside our perception don’t exist.

Likewise, I think that humans, being so good at finding meaning, at detecting pattern in the seemingly chaotic, have this capacity simply because meaning can be found, and patterns do exist. I doubt there would be meaning-finders in a world without meaning.

***

My attempt to organize my thoughts on synchronicity  was inspired by Matt Cardin’s post on Liminality, Synchronicity, and the Walls of Everyday Reality. Also, this is tied to a Ribbonfarm post on legibility and the catastrophe of enforcing an oversimplification of patterns on the world. I think a lot of problems might be attributed to not understanding complex patterns.

I wonder how one’s experience of synchronicity might be different if one were more aware of complex, dynamic patterns at play. Also, how much of meaning making, then, is really just simplification?  Akin to the Ribbonfarm-cited example of chaos being anxiety provoking, see  this article about how unclear meaning compels us to search for more meaning.

Lately, I’m thinking about stories and how they relate to deep meaning (which I call Story) and would suggest that synchronicity can point to Story. I’m curious about synchronicities that have served to wake people up to a deeper meaning in their own lives, that pointed out a new direction or provided a chance to recommit and would love to hear about such experiences.

Recently a post over at Holly Lisle’s writing forums brought the topic up. ‘Is the Universe Rooting for You?‘ the original poster asked (free forum sign up required for access, sorry). And several proceeded to tell of ways that parts of stories clicked into place at a point where they seemed most stuck – due to ‘random’ events or information that came just at the right time.

I’m aware of the varieties of cognitive bias – and that I’ve engaged in some of those here. Synchronicity can’t be proven. There isn’t a thing to prove. Nonetheless, it can be perceived and it’s the perceptual experience that is most fascinating.

***

image source: Creative Commons License Gianni Dominici via Compfight

 

 

A note to a character in my story, 2008

I came across this in the small notebook in which I started planning a 2008 NaNoWriMo story. It reveals more about its author than the character, but it was a good start. It let my creative mind know I was serious about finding a way to connect with it.

I’m not sure how to coax you out. I feel quite ridiculous for even attempting it. I don’t know how to contact you and whether you want to be contacted at all. I’m sure you’ll be offended by all my attempts because they will prove, as everything has always proven, that you’re not being heard or understood. No matter what I write it will in some way be a misunderstanding, as that previous sentence was – just for making any assumption at all.

Maybe you’ll think I’m trying to use you – and you’ll be right, because I want access to your story – but maybe you can look at it this way: we can save each other’s lives. Without me, you’re a ghost, half-formed, incomplete, and fleeting, but still existing and wanting to exist, solidly. I know, I’m not very inspiring, like some writers – I haven’t committed at all, have very little to show, my list of “clips” is pretty small and too, I’ve hardly written any stories – so I’m obviously a novice. And too, there’s the fact of my inconsistency.

I tend to lack faith and lacking faith is deadly. So I get enthusiastic about something and then when the enthusiasm cools I go off and do something else. That’s partly a result of feeling lost and unheard – you know what that’s like. We’re kind of alike.

Though I see a lot of ways we’re different.

And you, you’re going to help me out by the very fact that you exist, by giving permission to tell your story I think a rock will be lifted from my chest.

There’s this weight, you see, and its incredibly large and dark and it smothers and strangles me. It rises up into my throat and I can’t breathe easily and sure as hell can’t gather enough air to actually infuse the meaning that needs to be given life. You know about this.

I’m going to try not to worry about the fact that I don’t know your name, don’t have a plot, don’t have much of anything. I’m going to wait for the story to unfold.

I’d be angry too. Here I am trying to insist one of two things, both of which are probably wrong. The first being that you are me, that everything about you is a metaphor for my life. That makes you too convenient, takes away the validity of your being. The second is that you’re just a character, that you’re my imagination, not real. That denies the actual realness of everything you’ve experience through me and every other sentience which has birthed you.

I keep having flashes of you, images. The first, I think you’re about eight. You’re skinny and slightly snub-nosed and your straight dark brown hair is light at the tips from a lot of sun. There’s a village scene. You’re standing outside. Patiently standing there.

What if, after all these years, you found somebody able to hear you? What if it meant finding your way home? What if you could trust in somebody and be assured that all those meanings were understood? What if I tried to write it all, make it coherent?

Would you feel betrayed by my admission that I’m hoping you’ll cure me? That you will solve my problems? That’s what I’m hoping, to be honest, that after that I’ll be unburdened, that I’ll be unrepressed, that I’ll stop stopping myself with that internal critic, the one who says I have nothing to say. That I’ll be able to write.

Can we come to an agreement?

On the inside front cover, I wrote this:

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Yosemite in summer…

… is not something I’d really recommend.

It is the Disneyland of Nature, at least down in the valley, where it parodies itself (the Yosemite that once might have existed): You can go to the gift shops to buy postcards of the scenes you can’t see because you’re in your car, stuck in traffic, unable to park and get out and being yelled at by the park “ranger” who’s mad that she’s really a traffic cop.

When you do finally get out, there are fences with signs posted about how there’s restoration going on and ‘please don’t enter this area.’ The subtext of course is that there have been too many people entering the area and now it has to be “restored” to some “more natural” or “more pristine” state. My guess is that those areas will never be reopened. They would just get trampled and trashed.

I’m conflicted between a desire for experiencing that pristine state and recognizing that humans are part of New Yosemite’s ecosystem. We’ve essentially overrun it, but we’re part of it. As are our cars, our waste, our noise. THAT is Yosemite.

I tried to find a way to have a suitably reverent state of mind. It is awe-inspiring, those sheer cliffs rising above you and framing the sky or the vista encompassing massifs and vast horizon, forest and falls. I was selective about the photos I took – they’re distinctly NOT pictures of the crowds on the handrail-lined trail, of the milling about in the gift shop (or of the gift shops at all), of the heat shimmering off the lined-up roofs of cars. Those photos would have been more honest, though.

the honest picture

I think I have a very unpopular opinion – that maybe it’s inappropriate to make it accessible to all (from the comfort of an air-conditioned gas-guzzler). Maybe such grandeur deserves to be met after some amount of effort on our part (not just handed to us after purchase), after, even, some degree of struggle following which we are grateful for the beauty and the wonder instead of just expectant that it’ll appear around the road’s next bend.

Also, my opinion reveals my hypocrisy. I’m thinking of driving there in the fall, so that my limited-mobility dad, who, by the way, is obsessed with our driving culture (the irony does not escape me) can see it. So, I won’t be trekking in or through Yosemite, or backwoods camping or climbing Gary-Snyder-like into a fire lookout to end up formulating an environmental ethic or a novel or great works of poetry infused with the spirit of place. Instead I’ll be one-eye on the road, one on the hunt for the next bathroom  or picnic-lunch spot or vista.

I’ll be wishing for contact with something that’s just out of sight.

***
and, as if the intrusion of automobiles and the extending of infrastructure into the region didn’t provide enough catalyst for change, there’s evidence that the forests themselves are changing and drastically. Drought, climate fluctuations, and concomitant stress and weakness leading to pest infestations are taking their toll. It’s a whole new world.

image credits: Wendy Smyer Yu

Into the Light – a short story

Göttingen, Germany

Standing on the sidewalk, Hannah loosened the ring on one tripod leg and lengthened it slightly until the level-bubble was centered, then she re-tightened it. She sighted through the viewfinder again and verified that the doorway was within the frame. She focused on one of the double door’s pair of brass doorknobs. The shutter clicked.

Gabe watched, amused by Hannah’s careful advance of the film. He pretended impatience, tapping the body of the digital camera slung around his neck.

“Patience for the sake of art,” said Hannah.

“Patience for the sake of you, my dear,” he said. She didn’t reply.

“Come on, Hannah, no grudges, alright? Don’t I earn extra points for spending hours on the sidewalks of San Francisco fielding questioning looks about why we’re photographing doors?”

“At least they’re just looks.”

“Yeah, but everyone’s really wondering if we’re stalkers or paparazzi or, I don’t know, casing a joint.”

“Whatever,” she waved it off, sliding the tripod’s legs together and setting off down the street, almost without him.

“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing,” he said, skipping to catch up.

She laughed, softening a little, “I thought you’d noticed, I’m photographing old doors.”

“Duh! But why?”

“Because they’re beautiful maybe? Because I like them. Why do I need another reason?”

“I don’t know. I guess you don’t. You just seem so adamant about it, I thought there must be something behind it. Going into business, catching the coattails of the calendars-of-common-objects fad?”

Her faint smile assured him.

“Nope…just… I don’t know, G., maybe we fixate on the things that block us the most. I think it’s good to face that, shine a little light on what’s shadowed and secret, you know? To not let it have too much power.”

Gabe looked at an ugly grey stucco townhouse last renovated in the mid ’80s. As they as passed it he nodded grimly, recognizing something of his childhood in the hollow core door with its peeling varnish and three deadbolts and said, “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”

Later that afternoon Hannah would be in her darkened bathroom with a red-lit Hello Kitty desk lamp balanced on the sink, and her alarm clock on the only available surface area in the open medicine cabinet as she counted off the minutes until she could squeegee the water droplets and hang the negatives from clothespins strung on the shower curtain rod.

When they dried, the black and white transparencies of newly painted or not-touched-in years or peeling or postered-over doors would offer to lead into something, into somewhere. Hannah loved the doors into people’s lives, loved the things that, charmed or locked, kept the rest of everything out, admitted something or nothing, blocked the view or peeped out slyly. So many options gave her hope even if they were so many ways of being all just out of reach, their plane of existence flattened yet again on each reverse-shaded negative.

With darks turned to lights and light cast in shadow, she’d hang them in strips, a gallery of doors, in front of her aluminum-framed balcony slider — and the sunlight, when it finally crested the neighboring building would shine through and drop soft shadows. The shadows would land on her and Gabe, lying on the beige shag carpet. Maybe she’d be lost in her thoughts and he in his, locked in their own minds in a way, but each also slowly moving out of their private corridors, through the doors and into the light.

***

This story brought into the light of day by

perpetualbloghop

which also brings you these fine stories:

Emily Plesner Time Stops When I’m With You
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink the Water 
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard
Elizabeth McCleary OverWhelmed
Viola Fury The Day the Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift

***

I hope you enjoyed my story and have a chance to read the others. Let me know what you think in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you.

This story got me to wondering about what else doors symbolize and how they represent something besides just a barrier. For more nifty door pictures and thoughts on the worlds revealed by different doors, see this blog post. Thanks for visiting!

*image credit: Wendy Smyer Yu, Göttingen, Germany

transition and beauty: the promise of doors

I know I’m not alone in being captivated by beautiful doors.

They say something.

It’s not just bold paint, calling out to us, though the bright colors are eye-catching.

Maybe it’s the attention to detail. It says, someone cared enough to create beauty here at a threshold, in a shared space.

There’s a generosity inherent in beautiful doors. It says, I didn’t seclude all my artistry, didn’t hide it away for just the few. Here, enjoy!

A door presents public space and private space along with the suggestion that the same intention and attention will have been given to the interior as was given to the exterior.

A beautiful door speaks of possibility, but so does a non-descript door. Just possibility of a different kind.

In a few days I’ll post a story that involves some doors and what they say/what we see when paying attention.

Some seem capable of telling their own stories… I wonder, do you know of any stories in which a door is a prominent character?

 

door in Bad Langansalza, Germany

 


deleted the Plugin :(

It was a good idea but I just didn’t know how to use it well enough and didn’t have the patience to figure out if I have a login account to the WordPress support site.

Does anyone know of a plugin or add-on or ?? that makes it easy to link a Pinterest account with a WP account but NOT have every pin automatically publish as a WordPress post?

Well, THAT was a massive bungle

for which I sincerely apologize.

If you’re thinking, “what?” then count your lucky stars you missed out on a flood of posts from yours truly.

I installed a plugin that I thought would just import my Pinterest pins to my media library!! Instead it posted them.    All.       822 of them (more or less, but that’s bad enough, right?).

Kind, kind thanks to Felicia who sent me a worried email because she thought my website had been hacked.

Nope, just bungled.

There are, I think, seven of you who subscribed to updates directly through WordPress via email. To you in particular, I apologize for essentially throwing a stack of magazine clippings, a case of post-it notes, handfuls of receipts with scribbles on the back and unintelligible to-do lists into your email inboxes.

I will work hard to not let that happen again!