Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year's is always a favorite time of mine to stop and think about where my life is heading as well as where it's been. For me, that week is normally a quiet time although this year (and for that matter last) not so much. This year, not only did we have a nice trip with friends, but our plumbing has picked the end of December to act up. That took days of figuring out what went wrong as well as a lot of muscle and trips to town for this or that. Call a plumber? No way... I'll let you guess who said which of those statements.

Back to more positive thinking. This has always seemed a good time to think what I want to experience in the year ahead. I also ask myself if I made progress on my previous goals. It's a time to focus on what needs changing and whether previous goals are still active.

For years I used to write goal statements, with steps that might prove helpful, but it's not a rigid thing and in the last couple years, I have not written down anything although I always think about it. One thing I love about life is that no matter what I planned, there are always things that pop up that were unexpected. One thing I hate about life is there are...

2012 will be an interesting year if for no other reason than the people in my country will be choosing the direction they want the nation to go. Do they dislike helping others? They can change that and help... well only the rich anyway. Do they want to dictate other people's moral choices? They can do that based on their own religious views. Do they want wars around the world? Well they may not be able to stop that given both parties lately end up warlike no matter what they say, but one party will give them more wars as they believe in more of the empire concept which they prefer to not call colonizing but instead 'utilizing'. It sounds nicer.

Well there might be one who would get us out of wars overseas. Vote for Ron Paul (who also as a libertarian would dictate his own religious values into laws) and he says he'll end any overseas involvement. A step too far some would believe. He won't be the Republican nominee but might he run a third party race? He says not but who knows. I would naturally be happy if he did as I made my choice for who I'll be supporting for president right after I saw who the other side could possibly run given the make-up of their party at this point.

Anyway I could go on with what the country will be deciding about its direction where no matter who wins, the other side will feel no way, not possible, must have cheated to get that result and start talking revolution. At least that's been how it's been most recently; and maybe it's just human nature, and the first tribe with the first members, who chose a leader, perhaps grumbled later how it was fixed in whatever limited language they had.

For some 2012 will mean the possible end of the earth as we know it (some will think that in the US after the November election also) because the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, and everybody knows how prescient the Mayans were about future events. They did so well with maintaining their own culture against conquest.

For me, I don't concern myself so much with any of that as to think what I want 2012 to hold on a personal level. 2011 was pretty good to me. There were lots of quality family gatherings. I spent time in some wonderful places, saw some beautiful things. Creativity was active and going well in my life with my bigger issue being which things to pursue not whether there is anything. My kids and grandkids are growing and doing well. I feel like even with some personal black holes, overall I focused in on what I wanted in 2011.

That does not mean, where it comes to those areas where I have control, that all is as I want it to be. I hope I never get to where I think I have it all together. I can feel satisfied and still have dreams and goals for something new. I think I am the kind of person who will always have hopes for what I might change or make better in the future. I like knowing change is possible even if I don't change a thing.

Actually it has surprised me how life is at 68. I expected it to be more limited, with me more set in my ways. Although I do believe I could change things now, if I was willing to pay the prices for doing so, I expect that to not be so true with the coming years as aging necessarily does narrow down our options. In my case, however, much of what being 68 would have already narrowed, I didn't/don't want. By this age, I know myself and what means the most to me. I believe that where I am locked in, I made and am making that choice based on other considerations.

In 2010 I had gotten into doing snow digital images. I found a piece of music for a slide show illustrating the feeling I have about the nostalgia I often feel around now. I don't think I could say it better this year; so here it is again as a mix of dreams and reality, the things that still swirl around in my head.


After I had written this blog, I was skimming around in the blog world and came across some suggestions for ways to evaluate our last year and the one to come. It was from the woman who created the Tarot cards I bought this fall. Check out her ideas [Gaian Soul].

Kind of an interesting thing happened as I was reading her blog. She said when she does such an end of year evaluation, she considers the Three of Air to be the right card for the process. I read in the comments that one of the women had drawn that card before she came to read the blog that day.

So, of course, I couldn't resist giving it a try myself. Shuffle, cut, deal one card-- Three of Air. I just looked at it with surprise. I cannot explain why it would come up that way out of 78 cards, but I never have totally gotten how Tarot can work. Coincidence some would say. Okay but what are the odds? If you want to know what the Three of Air means, and how appropriate it is for looking at one's year or toward a future set of goals, check out her link.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oregon Coast in storm

Right after Christmas, Farm Boss and I drove to the Oregon Coast to spend a couple of nights sharing a rental house with our long-time friends, Parapluie and her husband Fisherman. I think I have mentioned before that Fisherman and Farm Boss were friends before either she or I came along.

Through the years, we have done a lot of things together and nothing is better than a relaxing couple of days to talk, laugh, cook, eat, enjoy the beach, read, and watch a movie or so. This trip we got lucky with a perfect storm, lots of wind and some heavy rain but not so much of either as to knock out power or make the drive back home difficult-- well anymore than ever where it comes to Oregon. Photos are from the Seal Rock area to north as far as Neskowin.

The rocks below look pretty vacant, other than one resting gull, but enlarge the photo. With binoculars and knowing for what they were looking, everybody but me could see the Black Oystercatchers. On blind faith that a photo would let me see them, I shot the rock formation about where I was told they were supposed to be. When I had the photo, Parapluie pointed out their long legs and red bills. Finally I could begin to pick them out also. Talk about camouflage.

Incidentally Parapluie started a painting of oystercatchers while down there. Before she left, It looked like she had an interesting start on what is obviously a challenging subject

Monday, December 26, 2011

Snow falling on the past

Snowing on the past

Putting snow onto my own digital images has become kind of addictive. I made quite a few snow digital paintings last year because in my part of the Pacific Northwest, winter more often looks like the next two photos-- and I am not complaining about that because not only is snow inconvenient, but around here, when it comes, it often melts fast and that means flooding.

For creating more snowing images, I'd like a software program that lets me do it on my computer, not requiring going online, and lets me enlarge it to a full screen. It seems to me it'd be a very meditative thing to do. Although I have seen snow globe sites, they aren't generally with the kind of images I prefer. I'm going to look for that possibility next time I get into Staples. Where it comes to online, Blingee is the best for a free program that easily lets me create the volume of snow I want.

Doing something like this right now is especially good for me as a way to not think. When I do think, my mind is in hyper-drive. I had been working on a new story which will be another historical romance which was requiring research to get the setting and times right. I got into it because I thought I had finished editing my contemporary manuscripts right up until I went back and looked briefly at Desert Inferno, which was already on Kindle, only to find a lot of minor glitches. How the heck did that happen? I had put a lot of time into editing them all and yet it still wasn't as right as I could make it.

So I set aside the new project and went back to re-edit it (which fortunately Kindle allows you to resubmit and they offer the corrected version to those who already bought the story-- I know about that as one of the ones I had bought had that happen). Then rather than let the next one, From Here to There, just go out (which I had also thought was in fine shape), I edited it again too. Now I am onto what will be the third one, Golden Chains, which is the one that actually follows Desert Inferno with one of the characters from that story.

If that all sounds confusing to you, it does to me too. Anyway I think I will have a third one ready to go by the end of the coming week. I also feel very good about From Here to There. Of course, I naturally like all of my stories-- they are my children. For anyone interested in information about them, check out the Rain Trueax link alongside this blog which will take you also to Romance with an Edge or to Amazon to purchase the books.

Whenever I get these all done to where I feel good about them, finally I can go back to the new story. Any wonder I like some time watching a snow globe?

The above snow scene is in Wupatki National Monument in Northern Arizona, a Sinagua site of dwellings north of Flagstaff. I've only been there in good weather which meant this digital required imagining. I think it'd be great to be there when it was snowing-- assuming the roads weren't closed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tis the Season

Christmas Eve this year comes with a New Moon. Anybody who pays attention to moon cycles knows that a new moon is for planting-- in this case, how about planting dreams for the new year?

cabin in snow

Maybe because I get very little of the white stuff, I love the snowy images I can create online. My favorites are snow with cabins. This particular cabin is one of my dream cabins, mostly a dream that by now I've given up on other than still in my thoughts once in awhile.

Christmas is a time for that-- reminiscing on what was and what we might wish had been. It is both a time of sadness and joy, a time to be grateful for what is but nothing wrong with imagining what might yet be when Christmas rolls around in 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice 2011

We made it. The longest night and shortest day of the year and we are on our way to more light. Not that it will seem like it for awhile, but we'll know it and that helps during the darkest part of winter. Well actually theoretically we did just get to winter; but most of us have been experiencing it for a few months and we know it even if the calendar doesn't tell us.

Winter Solstice is one of my favorite days not that I celebrate it with any sort of Pagan festival. There are some good ones with lots of candles and fires as we welcome back the sun. Most religious observations for this season, from Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Solstice, and Christmas, do have lights as some part for obvious reasons of darkness in the Northern Hemisphere from where so many of our traditions originated.

I am really not a holiday person-- not any of them. I did decorate the house this year because two grandsons were coming for a day. For me, decorating means a few angels, white candles, snow villages, and those evergreen strings with red berries and pine cones that all look real but don't give an allergic reaction, and no Christmas tree which would hurt our allergies if the real deal and I have had no reason to want a real or artificial one.

The reason I don't generally decorate anymore (and I used to go all out for it) isn't about a war on Christmas or some angst about that holiday. It's just I have other things to do than put up and then down decorations. Truth be told I just don't care that much. Now the decorations I put out this year are pretty subtle, not so much about a religious look at Christmas but more seasonal for the Solstice as well as a few objects that have come to me through various family members over many years. I like them well enough but other than having little ones here, why would I have put them out?

Absolutely I was not going to send out any cards (notice the past tense). Much of my list is now on Facebook; so it's easy to share family events there. I don't believe the Christmas story as in being historic; so I stopped long ago sending religious cards. This used to be a season I would proselytize a bit. Actually, I guess I still do but just something different.

For the second year running, I did draw the line at sending out a Christmas letter even though I used to find them fun to put together as we always have a colorful year at the least. I began to have a negative feeling about writing them as I knew I was only putting in what somebody else might enjoy seeing or doing. I was leaving out the stuff that wasn't so much fun during the year. What was it all about anyway? It's kind of like an illusion of the best parts of a life. Maybe that's what we usually present to others anyway unless they are close to our lives.

The mythology behind this season-- the giving without asking return--certainly has value whether it's oil that never runs out, a spirit who goes around giving gifts to especially children, or a god who came to earth to die for all mankind asking nothing in return, but that's not exactly the way these celebrations usually end up. It becomes instead of gratitude, a time of conspicuous consumption which is required to keep the economy bolstered up. As for giving and asking nothing-- most people at least want gratitude (even gods who sacrifice it all)

I enjoy the giving part of all this, but really like it best when during the year I have seen something and buy it, not holding it for six months, but giving it right then; or we are in a store and I tell the grandkids they can pick out something. To do it for a specific day has never appealed to me even if I go along with it as part of communal expectation.

When I was involved in the church-- any of them, Christmas made more sense to me with Christmas programs or Midnight Masses; but now it seems more a high pressure time with a lot of expectations leading to pain for those where life hasn't dealt with them as they had hoped.

It always seems ironic to me that this season of glitter and gold would be based around a man who taught none of that as the way to live, a man who did have concern for the poor without blaming them, a man who talked of love as mattering more than all the possessions one can accumulate. How did corporations, with the gifts, the wrappings and the cards, end up taking over a day that should be about minimalism? Never mind. I know the answer to that one.

This last photo was pure luck. I was trying to get the colors adjusted on my webcam and happened to look behind me and there was our newest cat (who we are still trying to decide on a name she likes). She is still in hide and run mode; so this was surprising. My cam has a 3 second delay; so I was only hoping she'd still be there by the time it took the photo. I got luckier than that as she reached up with what can only be called a model pose to more closely observe one of the village buildings and snap.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Doing one of my own readings

Because of writing about the new Tarot deck, Journey through the Gaian Heart, I thought I'd share an example of the first reading I did for myself using this deck. It might give someone an idea of how Tarot can be used.

My most common reading is to look at a situation and ask for help in understanding the past of it, the present, and the future. I do not ask for future predictions but rather insights to where something came from, where it is and where it's going if things stay as they are.

The reading is intended to draw out what I might already know but need encouragement to believe. They are to help me get under the layers I often put up between me and my inner voice; and believe in a god or not, we all hear that inner voice. It is in our thoughts which can sometimes be filled with so much that it's hard for us to focus. The cards help us do that-- focus. I do not believe in cards for fortunetelling and although I have had readers give me such readings, I can't say any came true.

In this case, I asked about an event that had come into my life some years ago, which still impacts me, and about which I have wondered what it meant to my life. I asked what was the past of why it happened; what is the present for what it is bringing to me today; and finally what could be the end result of having gone through it? I do not need to share what the event was as it's not the point.

So to do this type of reading, I set my mind on my purpose, try to still my thinking, ask for results that would be true and helpful for my wisdom and insights, shuffle, cut, and finally lay out three cards. I lay them face down so that I can study them for a moment to see if all three seem to go together. Say one didn't seem right, I'd put it aside, draw another for that place but keep that extra card to read later and see whether it was an added insight or simply out of place. This whole thing is very intuitive which means if you don't trust your inner self,  if you are going to argue for some kind of factual measurement, you won't like doing cards.

I should mention here that the creator of this deck has renamed the suits as well as the court cards. Children = Pages; Explorers = Knights; Guardians = Queens; and Elders = Kings . She likewise uses Fire = Wands; Air = Swords; Earth = Pentacles; and Water = Cups. They still represent the same court cards but using imagery that she explains means more to her in doing readings. You know the first tarot cards were playing cards and the use of them goes way way back in man's history. It does require a bit of rethinking for someone used to the way it has been with Rider-Waite; but the book helps with that and I liked the renaming for giving meaning. The book helps with this also.

The first card I turned over was to represent the past at the time this came into my life, representing where I was and possibly the purpose for which it came:

"The Guardian of Fire is someone who quietly knows his own worth. He doesn't have to be the center of attention in order to feel good about himself, although he is sometimes quite naturally in the spotlight. This is someone who attracts others because of a warm heart and natural radiance. Remember when the flame of creativity is shared, all benefit, and no single fire is diminished. Passions shared and combined can create a bonfire big enough to light up the entire sky." *

The Guardian set me back in a way that it would not have had it been the Queen-- although to be honest in all the times I did Tarot, the Queen of Wands never showed up in a reading for me (yes, when you do readings some cards tend to show up a lot and others you might only see if you are doing a reading for someone else).

I think, with a new deck, a person has to put aside any different definitions from the earlier decks to work with a new one-- accepting its meanings as the ones to use. These decks are mostly recreations of a concept that is old but that can be updated for different cultures and generations. Aritsts are free to look at the meaning of a card and interpret it as it suits them.

To me guardians are nurturers and in this case the illustration on the deck appears as though possibly it was an outside force who was stoking that fire, in short encouraging something but for what reason?

When this event came into my life, I did believe it was influenced by an outside force. Is that all that the card was telling me now-- what I thought then? Or is the card saying I was right all along and there was a spiritual force behind what happened and that it had a reason for coming unrelated that was not clear at the time?  That is the question the card stirs in me as a person who believes in such possibilities. Someone who didn't believe in those possibilities, that of someone else tweaking our lives or even that there is someone else, would not have such a deck to wonder about.

Okay, so now what about the present card, what has this event brought to my life today? How am I using it?

Three of Fire: "When you get this card, you are on fire with the joy of creativity, sexuality, and self-empowerment. Nothing will hold you back from expressing yourself with great abandonment and rowdiness. This is no time to hide your light under a bushel. Be proud of who you are and what you've accomplished. It's an exciting time for you! Who knows where your passion, creativity, and magic will take you next?" *

Now that one I can say does fit me very well today. If I picked a card out of the deck to say something about who I am today, it could have easily been that one. (well except for this irritating December cold anyway). To me this card is saying that event, not without pain, was part of helping me become the woman I am today, that it was giving me an energy I needed for my creative work. I guess you could say everything does; but that card really hits the mark for how I feel about myself in terms of creativity and really life right now.

Do we welcome such painful events-- those that never really leave us? Not hardly but we can choose to use them or not. We can let them weaken or strengthen us. (And no I don't believe that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger as many things can weaken us but, short of debilitating events, we can use whatever has come to us as best we can. One option is taken away and another opens up or we can sit and stew over what was taken. It is a choice.) This card is indicating I am using it at least for today. I believe that is so.  Both of those cards were fire cards.

So the unknown factor in this reading will be how accurate the future card will be as in where this event will put me someday. I obviously cannot answer this question yet.

Nine of Earth: "You're enjoying a time of accomplishment and comfort. You're at the peak of your creative powers, and well-paid for your work. You are connected to your family and community, yet have time alone for creative and spiritual pursuits. It is a time of peace and plenty in your life both internal and external."*

Whether that will prove to be the case, it is a hope I do have for it. I can't say more than that as who can know. If I look back on this in say five or ten years, I might be able to say more about how accurate this card was. For now, it is encouragement that I am going the right direction.

As I saw it, all three cards answered the question that the event was about  encouraging my creativity, feeding it and finally (hopefully) rewarding it. I can't put into words what I feel inside that it was saying to me. I can see it though like stairsteps along the way. The fire is bringing me finally a return to the earth which is the groundedness I always believe I want. Those three cards represent creativity, production and result.

Was the purpose the cards indicated what I had wanted that event to be about? Not a chance. Back then, I had a different goal in mind; but maybe in ten years I will see that otherwise also.  It does totally fit my life though for the past and present. We'll see about the future.

*From Journey through the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reading the cards

No, it's not Christmas cards I'm talking about...

One of those times when I was surfing through some of the blogs I read, I came across an interesting one in "Beyond the Fields We Know" as she wrote about a new Tarot deck.  I clicked on the link, went to the creator's site, and from there straight to Amazon as I really liked this deck.

When it arrived, I was quite pleased with the earthy designs for the cards as well as the book, "Journey through the Gaian Tarot" by Joanna Powell Colbert. I have several decks and when I have done readings, I have often chosen the most common Rider-Waite as I understand the meanings of the cards best there.

When I got the new deck, it had been months since I'd done any readings. I have liked knowing I could when the mood strikes or when I felt stuck. I don't see Tarot as supernatural or occult. I see it as helping a person get into their own intuition which can sometimes be blocked for assorted reasons. It also is satisfying to do a reading. Dare I say fun?

The Gaian Tarot is mostly aimed at connecting with earth, our intuitive side, rather than divinatory.  I especially like how easy this deck is to shuffle as often a new deck takes some breaking in, but it has not. It was ready to work from the get go.

I might actually try a card or reading from it for inspiration occasionally on the new book I am writing. Like where should I go next in terms of a character. I won't use it to determine what will end up happening with this story as I know the general outline. I could use it though in small events and to add some variety of thinking, getting myself out of my own rut and into the way my characters might think. Right now I am just enjoying its beauty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What brings you energy?

When I have a dream with some kind of message, I always wonder what it's about. Recently, one night I woke from such a dream.

The basic story was my being in a line of sorts with quite a few people as we were waiting our turn to talk to man sitting at a table. He appeared to be kind of a writer or motivational speaker. What we were to do was come up with a piece of paper on which we had written five things that gave us energy. He would then give us some words of wisdom about what we had said.

By the time I got there, and it seemed to take forever, I told him my first thing which was sleeping in a tent in the woods with a candle for light and a campfire. He looked dismissively at me and said that was a front, not a real thing, that I was putting up a mask of who I really was. Before I could look at the list for whatever else I'd written and see if he'd think more highly of my next choice, I woke up.

Now that was annoying to wake before I got any mystical answers, to have all that time in line and lose the dream before any great words of wisdom came. But I did remember the question, and it made me think later because, when awake, I had a hard time coming up with five such things and that surprised me.

It was easier for me to think about what drains energy than from what I draw it. Writing can be very rewarding, but it takes energy as much as gives it. Yes, there are the times when I write something and feel exhilarated, but equally there are the times it seems to pull it from me. Painting is the same way.

So I was talking about it with Parapluie; and as we discussed it, recognize that there are different kinds of energy. For instance there is physical. Then there is emotional. Probably there is also spiritual if you separate out the emotional from the spiritual anyway.

So it seemed to be a good question to ask here:

Name five things that give you physical energy.
Name five things that give you emotional energy.

For me, the physical is easy-- the right exercise; healthy food; dark, nearly bitter chocolate; light whether that be sunlight or from special light bulbs; and physical touch like massage, hugs and kisses.

Emotionally though what gives me energy, and it gets trickier. For instance I get energy from being at the ocean without a doubt, walking in sand, feeling the wind in my face down there, smelling the salt air-- but the drive down and back on a winding road with some traffic driving too fast-- not so much.

Anyway I'm still thinking about those five things for me emotionally...

Incidentally under that plus and minus category, we got a new cat. I had been wanting a female to replace my little buddy who I lost to old age 2 1/2 years ago. I kind of wanted her to come to me (most of our cats have been strays who were dumped out here); and then in October it appeared she did. She was the cat who was dying by the time she got her, and we had to have her put to sleep.

So on the week-end, I went into the pet store that handles adoptees from a rescue organization (they do such cool work, all of them). I saw the cat. She's very similar in coloring to the one I lost, actually was born about the same time my cat died. She had been adopted two years ago and turned back to the organization in November. She sounded right for us, and we took her home.

Well it's been and up and down since as she's adorable, our two male cats have taken it pretty well, but her--she's had a tough time adjusting to the strange house, the two cats, and us. We had not had this problem before as most of our cats have chosen us since they were strays out there on their own.

Her coming here went through a worrisome phase that maybe she wouldn't like our home and it'd be a bad fit for her. It is looking good now after a tense week-end. She still has a sleeping schedule that is off as in she wants to sleep all day, then romp around the house, running down the hall at full speed, likewise exploring for cubbyholes cupboards that don't close tightly( which means dumping stuff onto the floor), and jumping up onto our bed and rolling around wanting to be petted. I can handle all of that though if she just ends up liking being here. So far it's looking good, but it's been a mix of taking and giving energy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Desert Inferno

When we got the first book up on Kindle, I told readers here I'd let them know how to find it. There was a lot of work involved with learning how to do this digital book thing and it was all done by Farm Boss-- sometimes with great frustration. This morning, he figured out the last glitch and tonight we got notice the first one had been published.

There will be more following in varying rates. If you are interested in taking a look at this first one, check in with either Romance with an Edge (a banner alongside here), which is also about the writing process or in the blog that I created for Rain Trueax as a place for readers to find the books as they arrive without turning this site into a big advertisement, which as I have said, I really didn't want to do.

I actually had a blog set but now will put that off until the 15th on a recent dream of  mine about energy. I would say this whole process of getting these stories ready has been both about bringing and using energy.

The process has been stimulating enough for me, as I spent six months editing them, that I began a new one. I am really enjoying the writing knowing that I have a way to get the books out with my own covers and stories as I want them to be seen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Under the Greenwood Tree

Possibly because of all the turmoil we are experiencing in the world, maybe because I can, thanks to Netflix, I have been watching a lot of period dramas especially those put out originally by BBC, A&E, or one of the major film studios. Sometimes I watch the same drama by every possible producer just to see the difference in techniques and ideas for bringing the stories to life.

Some stories are such classics like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, or The Scarlett Pimpernel, that you can find them done in different eras with the adjustments that the producers and directors see would be preferred by the modern culture.  As best I know it, I have seen every version of all of Jane Austen's stories.

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre was recently turned out again by a big studio and I have now seen every version of Jane Eyre that has been made. There are a lot of them. The best, by the way, are those done as miniseries because it's such a complex story to turn out in two hours. A miniseries can take its time and flesh out the nuances, tone and shadows.

There is one of these old classics I have deliberately skipped but might give it a try, or at least the newest version, and that's Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. I have only seen it with Sir Lawrence Olivier. The problem I have with it seems to be a difficult story to want to view or to spend time but maybe my view of it will have changed with my age.  I have mentioned before that I don't like tragedies. I see too many of those in real life.

This last week we worked our way through one of those period dramas, a miniseries, George Eliot's Middlemarch which although not exactly upbeat in the characters and events, is certainly an excellent story about how we can create illusions that ruin our lives, how money is both used to control and the lack of good sense regarding it can ruin a life. The characters really are fleshed out and it brings the viewer to that time and how people often do react in good or bad ways.

There is one though that as far as I know has only been done once and it might be my very favorite-- Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree. It is also the only one of these films based on a book written by a male. When I began watching it (rented it through Netflix taking a chance as I didn't know the story), I thought uh oh. This is Thomas Hardy. Will I regret renting it? I not only did not, I happily ordered it to have my own copy for whenever I want to return to Mellstock and more time with Dick Dewy, Reverend Maybold, Farmer Shiner, Fancy Day, and all the delightful secondary characters.

Under the Greenwood Tree is a romance but also a story about motivations, Victorian England where the mores were strict for what was right to do, and about social interactions where people must find their self-worth. It is very well-acted. The side characters are as much fun as the four main protagonists as Fancy must choose between three very different men. Will she make the right choice? Well that's why someone watches such a story, to find out.

I do think there is value in watching these stories of earlier times where often people did wrestle with the same problems we do today. Life has changed a lot but human interactions sometimes not so much.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Compartmentalizing Life II

Where compartmentalizing my life is particularly useful is with certain kinds of creative work. I realize I use it in many places (family, health, relationships, farm, personal issues, obligations, etc. etc.) but creativity and political awareness are two which illustrate what I mean about it probably best.

I do not spend my life ranting or thinking about politics even though I do write a political blog, Rainy Day Things, where I cover whatever strikes me on the latest issues. I do read a lot about what is going on culturally and politically. Sure, I get  mad over this or that, but overall, it's in a compartment that I can leave behind.

So when I read about how deceptive, almost Machiavellian (except it's not clever enough to qualify for that) Newt Gingrich has been about accepting money from the very group he's busy slamming elsewhere, I am more amazed that anybody says they'd vote for him. Seriously, the Republicans want this guy, who has lived very comfortably with being a hypocrite? What the heck is that all about for the voters?

Having grandchildren in schools, it gets me when Gingrich wants to change the work laws to allow the poorest of the poor 9-year olds to serve as janitors in schools to teach them work ethics as though no rich children ever have a problem with work ethics. When do the 9-year olds do their homework, oh never mind.

Or the Occupy movement which, sympathetic though I have been to the problem, has had a title that irked me from the start. Occupy, doesn't that mean take? What are they planning to take and who is going to do the taking? I just read something from the guy who claims credit for the term Occupy as to what he wants from it. Kalle Lasn-- The branding of the occupy movement. Now I understand that many in the Occupy movement don't want to claim anybody speaks for them, he said what his goal is-- “somehow change the power balance and make the world into a much more grass-roots, bottom-up kind of a place rather than the top-down Wall Street mega-corporate-driven system we now have.”  That doesn't ring right with me, sounds impractical, and a lot like communism that has failed everywhere it's been tried, but...

I could go nuts thinking about any of this if I went too far with it. So I debate with myself whether I want to write about it. I don't stay in a rage over it-- even though some clearly think I should. I think what I can do; and if the answer is nothing, I put it aside for sometime in the future when there will be something. The ideas and thoughts don't go away, but they are pushed into their own compartment for access when needed but to avoid being so emotionally swamped that I'd lose my ability to function on anything else. It would be easy to have that happen today, to even convince ourselves that our rage was doing something, but I don't believe that it does. It's just unhealthy.

Some of what I think has let me do this, not have to fear learning about these controversial issues, reading both sides of an issue, and avoiding being swallowed by them, is my creative side which has always been important to me, whether it was sculpture, painting, writing, or something else.

I go to the creative work and totally leave behind that compartment of political angst; but the creative work doesn't swallow me either.  It's another compartment that I can set aside when an emergency arises, someone needs me. or I need to move out of it which might even be visiting with someone who has zero interest in what I am researching or writing.

Right now I am involved in putting together a new manuscript, something I haven't done for eight or more years. Because it's a romance but based in a real historic period, it has involved researching Oregon in 1865-66. Even there, I compartmentalize. I want to know what happened in a certain geographic zone and that historic point in time which means I don't read about more than that-- unless I need to know a motivation that requires knowing. I am not easily distracted and with researching history boy would that be easy to have happen. I focus on what influenced my characters and stick to it.

Working on this new story has been a prime example of the compartmentalizing as I didn't start writing as my first ideas began to gel. I mentally created characters and events while doing that research mentioned above. It was rather a fun time as I could create a character, take them quite a ways into the story, decide they don't work and literally erase their existence without having written a word down anywhere.

Sometimes my compartmentalizing is quite handy as it means I can go off and spend time with the family, be gone from a creative project for days, let other problems enter my head like how are the grandchildren doing and do I have any ideas from my past that might help with their current problems and all the while the story I had had being everything is seemingly gone except it isn't. It's waiting in that compartment.

There are distractions to this tidy arrangement-- those mentioned emergencies... or something outside my world that enters and doesn't fit in any compartment. I put that under the category of flexibility. That could be the music from Oklahoma, which I watched again recently, and the songs keep popping up in the middle of other things. And worse-- drat, not even my favorite song Oklahoma but one or more of the others, one of the more sticky ones, and it just won't leave me alone. The same thing can happen with a movie where a scene is coming back again and again and has zero to do with my own projects or compartments. It doesn't fit and manages to move through them all.

Oklahoma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Compartmentalizing life

It used to seem to me that the ideal of living a life would be that it all be integrated. One part of who we are would neatly flow into another. Probably on some level that happens, but I more often feel, at least for me, it's not how it is.  I compartmentalize, and there are likely reasons I learned to do that-- one protective and the other functional.

Now, it's not that I am a different person from one compartment to another; but rather it's different aspects of the same person, different roles, different masks. Masks aren't really pretense. They are more what we use to communicate with others, to connect and depict who we are but not all of who we are.

When people leave a compartment, they will be back to pick it up later. How successful this is will probably indicate how many activities can be ongoing at the apparent same time. Shifting into different modes, enables having more diversity than if struggling to hold onto a compartment that isn't fitting a new location.

I am wondering if I always knew how to do this or simply learned because of my lifestyle which is not only close to nature but with life and death with responsibility for livestock. It has been a lifestyle I have known almost all of my life where I grew up in the country at the edge of wilderness and with parents who also raised livestock. The life I lead today I chose because I had enjoyed it as a child and wanted it for my adult self. I well understood the struggles it would demand.

In our nation it's more unusual to live my lifestyle as most people have found something they prefer-- suburban living where it is a compartment that is more controlled. Your neighbor's home will look rather like yours, their yard will be maintained like yours, and they will likely be of about your economic level. This is not so true of those in the inner city nor those in the country. In those places, compartments are jumbled together. Since I know the most about country living, it's about what I will be writing.

Things go quickly wrong out here. It will all be going along swimmingly, and there is a predator attack changing the whole day or a sick animal. Sometimes those events can be life threatening for not only the animals but us-- and it's in an instant.

There is one other thing that can happen because we live just off a state highway, the kind of thing which I don't write about often because it only happens rarely; but when it does, it changes everything for that time-- it's the unexpected and unpredictable human encounter.

Our neighborhood had one of those last week when after we had gone to sleep we got a call from one of the three nearby homes, this the wife of a pastor. Her husband was not there (he'd just gotten his elk, was driving it home and then had to skin and cut it up); and she was scared because of a threatening incident that came into her driveway. It was the kind of event that was loud, frightening, and involves stranger to stranger. Her husband had told her if she was scared, to call Farm Boss. Which is what she had done.

At first we thought she was just letting us know about the incident for our information; and we started to go back to sleep; but then she called again asking if Farm Boss would come over. He quickly got dressed and drove there about the time the police arrived, who she had also called.

The person who had led to the scare had gone on but the scare remained for her. Scares have to be one of the harder things we face, wherever we live, and most difficult to put into a compartment and keep it locked away while we go on to a different realm. After Farm Boss was assured all was well, learned the details of what had happened, he returned home where I was reading a book until he got back. We talked about it for a bit before we went back to sleep.

It reminded me of many edgy events over the years we have lived in this farm just off the highway, events with strangers, which can come on so fast. Some concern over that, for me, has been alleviated by our having a driveway gate that keeps in the sheep and that house being built over there which now gets a lot of the stray traffic coming to their door not ours.

Yes, troublemakers could still come past our gate. Neighbors all know the code. The gate is not padlocked nor would it be hard to push open, but it is a visible barrier that doesn't make it look simple as it used to appear in the years where I used to even have nightmares about it happening.

One thing we learned from Farm Boss talking to the police-- we have even less protection out here at night than we had. They were out here this time so rapidly because they had had a call only seven miles off. At night, there are only two county officers to answer calls anywhere in our county-- and it's a big county, a mix of rural and town. To top it off, there is only one Oregon State Highway Patrolman for three counties. Basically you are on your own in dealing with a violent episode unless you get lucky with where the officers were when you made the call. I am pretty much okay with that as the price of living out so far; but it doesn't mean it can't get scary.

And then what happens afterward? The scare leaves when the event does? Not so much. If you can't compartmentalize, you keep it within, buried under a lot of daily minutia. Compartmentalizing lets you set it aside and pick it back up if the situation arises again or you must plan for how to change your response. Basically you figure out what you'd do the next time it arises, hoping it won't, but you then set it aside, not living and reliving what happened. That's the tricky part.

In some ways we are compartmentalized in more than our fear reactions. If we get all our news from like-minded sources, if those we talk to always think like we do, we can get to thinking it is the only way.  It's easy to do that these days with news especially where we can come to believe it's the same everywhere in the country at large.

Compartmentalizing even happened here with my blogs although it more evolved that way than I planned it as I more or less keep various topics separated. I do that mostly so readers won't go somewhere they have liked and find a hot button topic that upsets them. By compartmentalizing the blogs (art, politics, metaphysics, general), I can write freely without worrying I'll offend someone (who didn't know it could be coming) leaving me free to write whatever is on my mind.

So, to me compartments are tools but can prove to be limiting like a box where we cannot get out of it even when required.  The end result can be what is truth? How scared should I be? If I don't get out of my compartment is there any way to know, and yet if I do, it's not comfortable! We can stay with these like-minded groups, in our boxes, and it seems comfortable but it doesn't really tell us how the area over the hill is thinking or living. We just know how it is in our compartment.

Compartmentalizing can be both a limitation or a healthy tool. When we use it well, it enables us to find what is going on around us but without constantly dwelling on it. We simply cannot healthily stay in a rage or a fear all the time and not pay a physical price. For that reason some avoid knowing anything uncomfortable but who does that benefit? Working on our compartmentalizing skills can enable us to both be informed and lead a life without sinking into depression.

The photo on top was one of eight taken by a friend recently as he flew over this  farm on his way back from the Coast. The house is hidden in the oak trees at the bottom. The trailer above it is where my mother lived and we haven't yet figured out how to get if off the place (I have a compartment that frets over that). You can see the creek shining with the state highway just below it. The creek mostly cuts our farm off from that road but not from access as we also live on a road even though it is gravel. 

What looks like pick-up sticks are irrigation pipes.The dried looking grass at the top right of the photo is the newly leased land we have arranged for the cattle. What I like is how you can see the sheep and cattle grazing (taken before we got the lease land set up. If I'd known my friend was planning to do it, I'd have stepped out to wave ;)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Southern Oregon

We were fortunate to spend Thanksgiving in Southern Oregon with our children and grandchildren. It's a very lovely area with a strong sense of history.  Because for the last month I have been immersing myself in Oregon history (although not this particular region), I really enjoyed being in some of these very old communities and time with the whole family together is always a treat. We did our after Thanksgiving shopping in small, locally owned shops in Jacksonville, a pioneer Oregon town. No parking lot struggles, no chain bargains, but interesting merchandise, like this American made pillow created from a Pendleton blanket and a design not still being made, as well as a relaxing place to have lunch.