If Trees Could Talk

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The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert


We know that when we invest our hard earned money in a long term vehicle – we hope that when we tuck it away in good faith that the next time we see it, that it will have (fingers crossed!) grown from a tiny amount into something more than it was at the start.  We may make deposits along the way, keeping our eye on things as we go. But, we are never quite sure that the yield will be what we hope.

A few weeks ago, Kiddo and I set out on our annual vacation; another road trip of ‘epic proportion’. While last year we pointed our GPS in all directions south, this year we turned it upside down and put our focus on all things north.

All in all, our travels took us 1121 miles over the course of 6 days and 2 states and while I try to plan trips so that the entire trip IS the trip, we had a featured destination. We were going to live in a Treehouse for a few days!

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Here we go!

En route, we toured a brewery (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, anyone?), walked across a one of a kind bridge (Sundial Bridge), saw rivers, mountains, lakes and even a volcano (Mt. Lassen) a dam (Shasta Dam) and a classic old mountain town (Dunsmuir). We saw GIANT trees, wildfires and Elk. Coastal fog and a working Lighthouse. What you hear about the shortage of water in Ca is true – the dam is 143 feet below the crest, the rivers once raging seem so lonely down in the nearly dry river beds in some cases.  In one day’s drive we had puffy white clouds, heat nearing 100 degrees, pure sunshine, fog, wildfire smoke and rain.

Upon arriving at our primary destination on day 2 we were enchanted! Part of a larger outfit called Out-n-About Treesort, we stayed at The Lilly Pad – a Bed and Breakfast ReTREET in Cave Junction, OR!  Tucked away in the forest on a private 13 acre wooded homestead, and 36 feet off the ground and built around an old Cedar tree which proudly boasts no less than 150 birthdays.

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The charm of The Lilly Pad was beyond compare, Kiddo and I were both like kids at Christmas running around getting acquainted with our digs. First up was “uploading” our gear via a simple but ingenious pulley system.  I love efficiency!  Once inside, we were met by a queen size bed with down comforters, a mini fridge, bunk beds. Lights, giant windows where  you can roll up the tarps and be one with the branches and birds. A coffee maker (good coffee in that mini fridge too, I might add!). A sink. A toilet. Good living up in those branches. And, at night the path is lit with rope lights that look more like fairy lights.

But perhaps its best amenity was the seclusion. The quiet. The call to disconnect and then connect with what is most important.

Kiddo and I played games.  Silly games. He discovered Parchesi and remarked about how old fashion games were made with such clever thinking.  We made up games.  We hung out in the hammock and took endless silly selfies. We pushed each other on the swings.  We hung out and talked. And talked. We talked about unplugging. About his love for video games. We tossed around a business pipe dream I have and he egged me on for over an hour, trying to flush out ideas, offering many of his own (good!) ideas. He taught me how to hula hoop. Yes, you read that correctly, my ten year old son taught his 40 something year old mama to hula hoop. (I’ve always wanted to learn!)

Deposits into that long term account were being made, I could hear the coins hitting the metal.

We signed up for the zipline course the next day, six platforms, tree to tree and across meadows.  I must be honest and tell you that I wasn’t sure who was the kid between the two of us; it was a total blast. But, by platform three, I could see the look on his face. I know my Kiddo.  He was done. But to be done, he had to complete one more line from platform four – from 50ft off the ground up in a tree.  I left him standing there, went first and then got to watch him zoom in, performing each part of the process perfectly.  He did it. He was brave and held on and had a great zip. But, he knows himself and his limits and quietly said, “that’s it mom.”

I nodded and hugged him and told him how proud of him I was.  Then, I went on to complete the final two lines.  Whee-hooo!  So, this time, he grabbed my phone and took the pictures.

Later, we talked about limits, and comfort zones, and fun and trying and challenges.  And knowing ourselves.

Ching. Ching.  More deposits.

As we ventured on in our trip, we stayed in a couple of Airbnb.com homes.  We were welcomed by such gracious hosts and I felt grateful for being able to show my son a way of travel that is not always synonymous with the word tourist.  I got sick for a day or two and while that definitely is not a travel tip I suggest, you who have been reading here for awhile know me to be of the mindset that these are the things that become the stories. “Oh, remember the year my mom got sick on the road trip?!”  And, it revealed to me a kindness and compassion in my son that again reminds me what is most important here.  As I apologized profusely to him for missing a cool adventure because I about passed out from some kind of food poisoning, he simply said; “don’t let it take you over mom, things happen.”

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was a little subdued while I rallied. We drove through beautiful redwood forests, saw trees that made our 150 year old Cedar Tree look like a toddler. Hours in the car and giant trees are not high on the woo-hoo list for any ten year old, mine included. We talked, ate cherry sours (once I could stomach them again!), played Fact or Fib, traded air time for our playlists (which have many of the same songs!) and talked some more. We got serious when my son asked me about regrets in life.  What mine are, what his are.  I was honest and let him in on a few things I would rather erase completely. That’s how it is with regrets.

Ka-ching.

As we went on a short hike through the  Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, there were a few grumbles and groans about taking this hike in the first place. I promised there would be no more hikes (trust me, I was feeling about 40% at this point) but that it was important to see these amazing trees, that people come from all over to see them, learn from them and just stand and feel small in their midst. I also laughed and told Kiddo that I knew I would have to wait about 20-30 years before he would really get it.

And that I was willing to wait.

 

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It became clear to me in that moment what this trip was all about. We had some of the coolest moments of all time. We also had some miserable moments and we had some pretty boring, mile after mile moments.  But together we logged not just miles. Not just experiences. Not even just memories. Seeds were planted, quietly. Deposits made into my most important, most valuable investment of all time.

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There Is Something About Right Now

On the open road

When I was in the third grade, I can remember thinking that the girl down the street who was in the 8th grade was beyond cool and I wanted to be just like her. I couldn’t wait.  When I was in the 8th grade, I couldn’t wait to be one of the kids walking through my neighborhood to our high school. When I was nearing high school graduation, I couldn’t wait for the freedom and opportunity I knew would come when I got to college.  When I was taking my 400th college final, I couldn’t wait to get out into the ‘real world’.   When I was out in the real world, I thought being 30 sounded like the golden age and pushed on to hurry up and get there.  When I was in a serious relationship I couldn’t wait for us to get really comfortable with each other.  When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait for that baby to arrive.  And then middle age hits, and suddenly the desire to get in line for the fast pass diminishes greatly….

We have a funny way of rushing ahead to what we think is around the next bend, that perhaps it will be better than whatever right now involves; we all do a lot of what I call ‘I can’t wait-ing‘.  I can’t wait ’till it’s 5 o’ clock. I can’t wait ’till school is out. I can’t wait ’till Christmas, I can’t wait ’till this project is over.  I can’t wait ’til…

I will admit that anticipation is probably one of my favorite things. I save gift cards for far too long because I savor what is to come much more than what has already happened. I love to plan trips almost as much as take them because it is as exciting to me to consider the possibilities as it is to actually be there.

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Sometimes though, in all our ‘can’t wait-ing’ and setting our sights on the next thing – the what is to come – we miss the golden moment of what has come.  Especially when something seems difficult or ambiguous or painful or even just mundane and boring, it’s nearly impossible to desire to sit in the middle of it any longer than we need to. When maybe the middle of it is full of something we can’t quite see or sense. Yet.

I find myself in a particular kind of moment at the moment (see what I just did there!?) and feeling somewhat curious, wanting to know that something is coming around the bend. Restless in some ways.  Wanting something and yet knowing it is not really the time for it.  In feeling the tension of that push and pull, I have become well aware of the fact that there is something about right now.

Right now. It holds so very much.  It is simply my job to just be in it.

I think back to a cross country move years ago and how we beat the moving trucks.  Days spent in an empty apartment save for the suitcases that had traveled with us.  It was impossible to not will that truck across the miles, to show up with the furniture and the dishes and the towels and all the riff-raff we call ‘our stuff’. Looking back however, there was something about right now in the days of living off of take-out, go-out and sleeping on the floor.  Those few days held their own importance – there was something about them that eventually led into what was to follow, what came next.  But those empty apartment days had an importance all of their own.

This isn’t about what is meant to be.

Or waiting for the right time.

Or trusting the universe.

Those are all important in their own right, but here’s the thing – they each take us out of this moment the very second they become even a passing thought.  It’s the right right here right right now that is at times almost imperceptible or so easily overlooked. Seen as inconsequential, unimportant even, when in fact, there is truly more going on this moment than we can sometimes comprehend.

So, as I think about the right now of right now, I feel this sense.

There is just something about right now…

…How you can smell the first whiff of coffee, even before taking your head off the pillow…

…How you can get the smell of the rain just before a storm begins…

…How you sense the shift in the air as the season is on the cusp of change…

…How the music shifts from the bridge to chorus…

…How the arc in a story is just beginning it’s early ascent…

…How you can sense the promise of what is to come the moment you step out the door for a vacation…

…How you can feel the rustle of the wind in the trees high above on an otherwise quiet summer day…

…How you can feel a pregnant pause in a conversation…

I have heard myself over the last couple of years suddenly exclaim: I love this moment. I love this right now. Where I am suddenly so inside my own skin, feeling the perfect warmth of the sunshine, or the depth of the connection to the friend(s) sitting across from me, the perfect timing in witty banter. A quiet and surprisingly insightful moment with my Kiddo. The sublime taste of a cold beer or cocktail with friends who enjoy it as much as I do, and in one singular instant, it hits me. I love this right now.

Sometimes those moments are not sublime, but instead subtle or even sucky.  But they are moments to be felt and held and honored. So while I continue to – and will always (!) want to know what’s coming down the pike, I am getting better at remembering to remind myself that when it gets jumpy inside this old middle aged skin of mine, that when it feels like nothing is happening or even if I don’t really like what is happening, that….

…there is something about right now.

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Sunsetting

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A few weeks ago, work took me to the Windy City for a conference. The opening keynote speaker was a young woman whom I had heard speak a few years back and while amazing, the part of me drawn to novel experiences, admittedly was somewhat less than enthusiastic about a repeat performance.

I was wrong. So wrong.

In the years since hearing her speak last, it became apparent to me within moments, that she had grown and more importantly, that I have grown. Her message was poignant, insightful and addressed the human condition in ways that only someone who has lived deeply can do.  This keynote speaker is Liz Murray, author of the New York Times Bestseller Breaking Night “and a believer of Possibilities, Creativity, Audacity, Passion, Fun, and a Global Community.” Her story is that of Homeless to Harvard – the story of but one young girl raised by drug addicted parents who both died so early in life, leaving her and her sister homeless as teenagers.

Her ability to convey her story with humor, with transparency and yet with a level of insight far beyond her 33 years, on par with that of thought leaders we have all read or heard about was simply and purely stunning. Her candidness captivated me and I could have listened to her speak all  all night.  She wove her story with her observations, lessons learned and universal truths. She shared one of the most honest – and helpful – examples of forgiveness that paralleled, to me, that of the story of Louie Zamperini in the book Unbroken.  Tears gently rolled down my face in one second and in the next, I was laughing out loud. A master story teller, without a doubt and truly, a master human being.

At one point, while she was speaking of her mother and while unable to parent in the ways we consider conventional, Liz spoke of her mother’s fierce love and affection for her children.  Then she shared that when her mother became ill and that the end was imminent, that she wished she had taken more time to be with her.  She shared that afterwards, after the moment to say goodbye had come and gone, that she realized that even at such a young age, that she had developed a theme in her life.

She always thought there would a later.

I will see her later. I will visit her later. I will spend time with her later.

Later came. Later went.

Her mother was gone. Buried in a pine box.

Later came. Later went.

***


***

The kiddo and I are spending a few days with my father, who in the recent weeks met up with the milestone called 94.  On the day of his birthday, my brother shared that upon birthday greetings and the acknowledgemet of his 94 years, that his response was, “Let’s see if we can make it to 95″.

His spirit is in tact. His body is mostly in tact. His mind, however, is in nearly a million mixed up little pieces.

While sitting together in the living room, or at the dining table, our conversations are both humorous and heartbreaking.

He asks when he is going home. We are home. The home where he has lived since 1968.  

He asks if he ever came to visit me when I lived in San Francisco. I have never lived in San Francisco.

He asked me if my brother has arranged transportation back to the other house. I tell him we are where we need to be.

He asks me if Bill lived with me in Fresno, or somewhere? He thinks I am his cousin.  I just shake my head no.

He asks me if I would like to stay the night. I say yes, of course, thank you.  He does not realize that I am his daughter. 

He says he needs to find a ten dollar bill he dropped out in the yard, and when I tell him he didn’t he says he will look for it anyway. When I find a ten in his wallet, he hands it to me and thanks me for my help.  I just take the ten. And put it back in his wallet when he’s not looking.

We take a drive around the town where he’s lived and worked since the sixties and he remarks that he thinks he’s been before.  That’s true, he has.  

As I get him to bed, he asks me where his wife is.  I say she is not here right now and he nods. He says she must be with her mother,  and I nod. He says she old enough to manage on her own.  His wife died 16 years ago. I kiss him good night.

I began asking him questions a few years ago. Questions about his life, his loves, his dreams, his travels, his regrets.  I got only the tip of the ice berg.

I realize now, I always thought there was a later.

He is still here, but his mind is not.

Later has come. Later has gone.

Photo credit: The Kiddo

Photo credit: The Kiddo

There is still so much I want to know.

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Name That Tune? No, Name That House!

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Last weekend, I was able to steal away for a couple of days with a couple of friends and we spent a weekend reconnecting and relaxing in and around the quaint and charming little town of Carmel. We don’t, for one nano second, not ever ever take for granted the beauty of the California coastline and though we lost count, my friend J must have uttered, “Wow!’ about a bajillion times.

While driving from point A to B, we passed through the intersection where beautiful meets gorgeous.

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Then, we started noticing that all of the stunning homes along 17 Mile Drive have all been named. The first one that caught my attention is the Butterfly house and its beautiful and conscious California drought resistant awesome landscaping.

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Wilder Butterfly

CA scape

Beautiful and requires no lawn mower!

From there, we wandered and meandered and found these humble (ahem!) abodes with fun and creative names.

best nest

Best Nest

beside the point

Beside the Point

scenic dugout

Scenic Dugout (I could handle watching a ball game or two from inside that dugout!)

 

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Song of the Sea

There were many more homes with affectionate nick names such as Point of View and Sea Haze. I found myself completely enjoying the creativity and personality of each and also thinking about the possibilities of what it would be like if we all named our homes? First of all, it would just be fun, would make evening walks quite different, but wouldn’t it also add another dimension of community among us?  What would you name your home if you could – or maybe you already have? It got me thinking about what I might name the home where I live now and the name JuJu came to me because it’s just got great energy and a bright cheery feel to it. But, I also know I will just keep thinking about this. By now, you know how my brain works, right?

Then we passed by this ‘little’ stunner and found her curiously lacking an identity like her neighbors to the left and right.

Name that house

Name that house

So, I leave you with a Cheers and a Challenge:

…a cheers to time away, renewal and spending time with friends who make all the difference in our lives; and

…a challenge to take some ownership for the naming rights of our nameless abode.  What would you name her? And look, there is even a blank slate above the windows above the garage, just waiting to be inscribed!

Cheers!

Cheers!

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Hamster Wheels and Chocolates

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Sometimes, we get so tired, we just have to laugh.  Here in academic land, as the semester progresses, things seem to move faster and faster and faster. And faster.  Around March, it started to feel like someone hit high-speed on the ol’ hamster wheel, and didn’t let go!

Tomorrow, the spring semester ends and we celebrate the success and achievement of our students who graduate and leap the chasm from college to career. We hope; it’s not always a linear path with the uncertainties and challenges our grads face these days.

While preparing for the ceremony tomorrow, my colleague in the office and I were getting a little punchy and to my mind came the image and hilarity of the old I Love Lucy episode where she and Ethel are madly and furiously trying to work the line at the chocolate factory; and with their apparent success, the supervisor just says, speed it up. Yep, we can relate!

Now, can we please have some chocolate?!

 

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Perspective. Well Played.

The question is not what you look at,

but what you see

 -Henry David Thoreau

 

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What Is It?

 

The other day I talked about perspective, and how sometimes we need to let things unfold and be open to seeing things in new ways.

Then, the very next day, this came across my view. Perhaps I was being tested?

Look at the image above. What do you see?

Are you sure?

***

Believe it or not, but this is a woman.

***

In full body paint.

***

Look again.

Her left leg is pointing down like a tail.

Her right knee is drawn up.

Her right arm is braced on the stump. Her other arm is folded over her head.

The bird’s eye is in the center of her forehead.

The longer you look, the easier it is to see her.  She’s sitting on the wood stump.

***

Now, where did the bird go?

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Playtime Perspective

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This is my busiest time of the year at work; year-end events, culminating projects, reports, graduation ceremony and most of the time my head feels it’s going to bust a nerve.  Each year this cycle repeats itself; I find myself closing my eyes and hoping that when I open them, that it’s June 1.

Last night, I decided to play a little after work; mix it up a little for myself and grabbed my camera and went out to the backyard. This time of year, there is a passion-flower vine that is blooming and I love these beautiful blooms – so unique and strange.

I snapped on to my camera a creative lens set I had purchased a few years ago and had forgotten about. I was just playing, trying to learn how to use it the way it’s intended and overall it was a frustrating experience. I just couldn’t get the images to turn out the way I thought they were supposed to. What saw in my mind didn’t happen. What I was seeing in the viewfinder isn’t what I saw in the resulting image.

I didn’t like not knowing how to capture the image I wanted to get and yet I kept snapping, taking photos of the flowers, my sprinkler head, wine corks and a piece of metal – just to see what might happen.  Testing this, trying that. Determined. But having fun.  I have a lot to learn with this creative lens thing-a-ma-jig, but what I realized – yet again – is that sometimes we just need to get out of our comfort zone, let things unfold as they will and be open to seeing things in new ways.  And that learning through play is always a good idea!

You could say I am developing a passion for getting perspective!  :)

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