Monday, December 27, 2010

Looking into 2011

I'm not a big fan of setting goals. I know that it is what all the gurus of American pop culture recommend, but to me it is not a workable scenario. Lost in a sea of potentials it is hard to grasp what may turn out to be very important at a future date that I can only imagine now. It may be that my life has undergone such complete change in the last five years that all of my previous goals pale in comparison to what I experienced and that keeps me shy of goal-setting. Whatever it is - the thought of setting goals, making resolutions or even expecting anything of the future - seems to fill me with a sort of dread.

Remember my metaphorical peach orchard? Here in the winter of no moisture on Colorado's Front Range, I'm wondering how peach trees would survive such an experience? See. This wasn't the winter to plant the peach orchard, I pat myself on the shoulder. I stand looking out at my field of golden rye grass bending to the bitter winter winds and consider irrigation once more. I want to control future emotional flow and what ideas I develop in my orchard. Maybe I will need to invest in a system of survival that can sustain a peach orchard even during winters like this winter when there haven't even been two inches of snow accumulated. Life is like that, you know, for most writers -- a delicate balance of weather and sustainable methods of farming the mind. I've tended to lean towards weather (inspiration, climate change, and emotional storms) to write in fits and spurts, but the productivity of this method is questionable at best. For a more sustained effort, I need sustainable methods and environments.

Leading me back to setting goals. Eek.

There are a number of things that a writer must have to sustain writing:

  • a room of one's own where quiet prevails for hours at a time, not even the breath of another to shake the mind from its trudging path
  • energy for sitting that comes from regular exercise and diet that are maintainable and do not interfere with writing time
  • enough sleep that the writer is not tempted to fall asleep in the middle of any given sentence -- for going to sleep on oneself is the writer's nightmare
  • time enough to get going, and cruise along for a good long while before having to stop and do other things
  • pencil and pad for notes and doodles that pop into the writers' mind when away from writing
  • few distractions (Facebook, laundry, television, and other books are too tempting for words)
  • willingness to play with ideas without expectations, and meander down a path that may lead nowhere or may lead to the essence of a story
  • hope that someone, somewhere will be interested in the writing enough to publish or make note of it
  • willingness to sacrifice the appearance of a full life in favor of loneliness and sort of an ascetic practice that may appear damaging to others.

This last thing may be the hardest for me as it requires a rationing of social outings to the very most basic events -- family gatherings, and a shared cup of tea once or twice a month. It is only this past year or two that I have understood that my penchant for extravagance in the social arena has had the price tag of not being a productive writer. I don't know why it took me so long to understand this. I had this very information in 1996, and I've been mulling it over and resisting it with every bone in my body for what appears to be 15 years. Fifteen years! This is just to tell other writers out there that this happens to each of us in different ways...the realization that sustaining a writer's life can require certain sacrifices we are unable to make until exactly when we are able to make them.

Just this past week I was visited by an old friend who exclaimed with complete innocence and admiration that she had some of the best times of her life when I threw parties and sleepovers and afternoon teas in my big house in luxurious L.A.. I turned away from her for a moment to cement a placid look on my face. Turning back I said that I appreciated her memories of good times, while internally realizing, and sort of holding a proverbial gun to my temple, that the cost of all of those parties and gatherings and extended weekends of talking and sharing had cost me in other ways that I was only now paying -- sort of like a debt payment that finally comes in for real. Good times may be this writer's worst enemy for they are the most tempting distraction ever for me, and feel, at the time, totally justifiable. I did not manage to write at all last week, the week of Christmas, for all of the good times to be had, but this I allowed myself. I was thinking that this is the season to set aside those larger goals and celebrate the moment...still...I didn't write much.

Now, I have to gather up steam again for figuring out how to irrigate my field with these seasonal celebrations without flooding or withering my crop with neglect. How do other writers do it? Am I destined to become a miserly curmudgeon with my time and giving so that I can write sustainably? Or is my reaction simply the equal and opposite to my previous life of putting writing off for a party? Will a balance be restored in 15 years so that I may have some friendly interactions and still write enough to unspoken, unwritten goals?

If I look forward into 2011, I suppose I hope to understand the writer's life even better than I understand it now. I hope to attain the necessary tools, space and time to afford this life choice and become as prolific as I know I can be as a writer. I hope that my proverbial peach orchard will be planted and irrigated and well-planned enough to sustain a few expected and a few unexpected turns of the weather. Are these goals within my ability to attain? In part they are dependent on my choices, but in part they are dependent also on grace. As goals, they don't look like much, and they are very self-centered, but there they are, a bag of chosen potentials, that I'll be carrying for a while on my staff.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What I believe about Christmas Future...

The popular American Christmas way is for the birds. A friend commented on a previous Christmas entry about what I think a key to making this time of year meaningful: quiet. American Christmas is the extreme opposite of this truth. Even the most solemn Christmas hymns from days long past are reworked into loud and noxious sounds that exude disrespect for calm. You know when a well-known Christian singer, Amy Grant, writes a Christmas song entitled "I Need a Silent Night," that things are out of hand.

So, this is what I care about this time of year -- stories read by the fire, candlelit dinners with close friends and family, beautiful music and walks under the stars. All of my best Christmas memories are about quiet sharing on dark nights, not about gifts, but about being in the moment. I do enjoy Christmas music sung around a piano by people of varying talent, but not so much blaring over mall speakers. I loved being in La Posada one year in a far away Mexican village, ending at the inn with a piƱata for children and Mariachis singing joyfully with words I barely understood. One year I made a Hanukkiah of the earth, eight plus one candles placed in the ground, lit by me alone under the starry night sky, fragile light fighting against the long night. Another year I made a spiral walk of stones and lit candles on the Winter Solstice. Every year I've given my children each an ornament, and now they have enough to cover our small tree, and I like to watch them decorate it (often placing bunches of ornaments too close together and leaving blank spots otherwise). I like to walk a labyrinth in solitude. The deafening quiet of the world after a fresh snow deeply touches my heart, but so does a warm breeze from the ocean and waving palm fronds against the moon.

For me true Christmas is not a place, nor is it a specific group of people even. It is not about expectations from family or friends. Christmas is not about extravagance and glitter. It is not even about one day that we may or may not agree a Savior was born in Bethlehem. Christmas, ideally, for me is about reverence for the moment. A day in the Southern hemisphere may be about sitting on the beach and watching the sun rise on the one of longest days of the year. In the Northern hemisphere Christmas could be the crunch of boots in the snow under a starry sky. A great meal at a long table filled with loved ones is miraculous, but if I'm ever alone on Christmas I hope that I remember that all I need to do is let the grace of quiet waft over me to recollect the journey of a year gone by, and to look forward to the years to come, to be with the moment as fully as the flame of a candle, to breath and appreciate how a complex life can be made simple. It is one of those days to mark on a calendar, a rite of passage in a year, the winding down of expectations, the setting aside of goals for an hour or two. Christmas could be a point of stillness in an otherwise busy life, if we chose to make it so.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Present is a gift...

Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness.
  - Robertson Davies

What about that? What if we simply stop worrying about our present unhappiness, knowing that it is weather that brings unexpected gifts? Every year I swear I will do this holiday season differently only to be swept up in a tsunami of activities and expectations "other people" demand that I participate in without regard for my health, well-being or wealth. To reject the holidays seems to leave only the bah-humbug aspect of my persona grimacing with resistance. I'm searching for a middle ground that will leave me bounding into the New Year rejuvenated and raring to go. I'm attempting to overcome the two extremes of "too much" and "too little," and set a moderate course that I deeply feel will acknowledge the meaning of gathering up the people of my life with joy rather than dread.

I believe many of us unconsciously create poison jars during the holiday season to store up our forbidden resentment so that we can project all of the season's advertised aspects -- peace, good will and being of good cheer. A poison jar is usually a vulnerable person in our midst who "never seems to do anything right." My wasband was an excellent poison jar for me because he did not understand that I was never going to do Christmas like his own mother. Our conflicts over Christmas included everything from decoration and food, to exactly how presents would be opened and who was invited to share in this debacle. There was always an internal calculation on how much should be spent on the holidays that was never the same between us. Years away from this fiasco, I see my own flawed behavior and I'm really sorry about it. My gift to him is to acknowledge it. I loaded my self-loathing onto him without any thought at all about it. It was a perfect projection so that I could be the Christmas hero, and I always was the Christmas hero and he always was the Christmas villain. I'm quite sure I am not alone in this behavior.

Obviously, though it is a well-worn path, I have no desire to stay on it for this year or any future years. I will not be happy if I manage to make my current husband into my Christmas poison jar. In fact, I have been going through a sort of Christmas purge for the last four years, admitting to anyone who stumbles into my sphere at this time of year that Christmas is simply not what it used to be and that gift exchanges, holiday meals and just about anything above the bare minimum is out of the question. It was partly a financial consideration, but also it has been a sanity decision. My budget has been so tight that all I could do was meet my kids' desires as well as possible and everyone else got jipped including myself. Even so some of these past few years my kids' gifts were cobbled together from discount stores and help from my parents, my boyfriend-now-husband, and they were disappointed at times. I know that.

It's really my fault. The big neon arrow is right over my head flashing "her fault" in a variety of colors. I have chosen to focus on re-raising myself this past year. I rebooted my entire life in the past four. Every year I have an excuse now to side-step the hooplah. This year my excuse: I have had health problems that significantly slowed me down to a dependent crawl. Though my now husband is incredibly generous, I feel guilty that I am taking his bonus and overtime to create Christmas for us, and I am utterly confounded by how to make this sensible in my own mind. He wants nothing to do with planning the holidays and is happy to put me in charge -- am I a poison jar for him I wonder?  In fact, he is very non-judgmental and not apparently invested at all in any outcome except to please us as he can. He has been the Christmas hero for us in the last three years running without a doubt, and yet he asks for no credit and stands on the sidelines without commitment to anything except doing his best to meet the expectations of the culture he finds himself in. When I ask about his Christmas memories he draws a blank or mentions a hotel room in Turkmenistan with vodka and a Soviet-trained surgeon who worked to save his foot from infection. It's a totally different ball game for him in terms of expectations and I take heart from that, but then it all rests with me to figure out how Christmas et al will play out.

I'm trying very hard to be reasonable and wise with the given resources. I'm not a crafty person, and so it isn't like I can knit a sweater or hat for people, and anyway if I do those kinds of things then I'm not writing and if I'm not writing then there is no hope for a future that alleviates my husband's burden and shares responsibility. As much as my children love the character of Mrs. Weasley, I also expect that if I could knit them a Christmas sweater, they'd be about as enthusiastic about it as Ron is when he receives his hand-magically-knit monogrammed sweater with disappointment. So you see me going round and round. All the time investment it takes to make things like gingerbread houses, and give parties interfere with my long-term goals in more than just the activities themselves, but also in the fall out of getting sick, being waylaid by lack of energy, etc., and being broke at the turn of the year. I don't have it in me to create that kind of homey perfection even with months of healing behind me. I have a hard time just keeping up with the laundry and I'm trying to learn how to accept reality rather than make up more layers of fantasy. Deep down I believe that my children will, in the long-run, appreciate that I have created an option for them to embrace in the future if only the option will make itself obvious.

One thing I've learned how to do in the past year, that I didn't know how to do before, is wait rather than act on my voracious impulses. What I've discovered with this waiting thing is that the world actually spins without my involvement. You smirk, perhaps. Well, it was a discovery of importance to me to realize that things come up without my planning them, and it usually turns out much better than I guessed it would. For instance, last week I wrestled with the idea of reserving a horse and carriage ride in Denver for a special experience that wouldn't add clutter to our lives, but I waited, balking at the cost and questioning the value, and a friend just told me there are free hayrides in a town nearby on weekend nights to see the lights of small town America. Hazah! It's a different experience, for sure, but it is within my budget and has no built-in disappointment because what could one expect but something quaint and small? I return to the lessons of my own childhood low-expectations and am reminded that gratification is not necessarily for sale. Playfulness enters the picture again when you don't have every minute filled with extravagant plans. If my kids change their minds a dozen times before Christmas about what they want to unwrap, it's okay because I'm not shopping until the last minute. If the stores run out of what they wanted then the surprise they get will hopefully work out. If I can't afford their first choice, I've heard dozens of desires that will be almost as good. The point is that there will be something under the tree, and that the things take a back seat to spontaneousness possibility.

A great thing has happened with my kids' lowered expectations over the past four years. They are starting to look at the price of things in catalogs and they're SHOCKED at the cost of things they've received in Christmases past (i.e. American Girls, and Nintendo DSI). Now that my daughter earns money of her own through babysitting, she values a bargain more than ever. Even my 9 year old son looked at the Target ads for hours and decided to ask for very reasonably priced items. I have to guess that their reduced desires are a testament to the benefits of having a sane mom, and this spills over to birthdays and other celebrations too. They see the difference and it's getting better all the time. This is my hope.

Christmas Present is leading to a Christmas Future that is not dreadful, but is mysterious and unknown. I'm no longer convinced of the sales job that "giving is better than receiving" either, even hand-made gifts take up space and are not necessarily treasured as much as the time it took to create them. The consumer society locked into the idea of buying until the guilt goes away is just gross. How to bring my children down to earth, and tell them the truth that I believe about this time of year is the option I hope to at least begin finding this year...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past....

I love A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. What a fabulous idea he had to look at the inadequacies of a man and show where they started, where they really leave him short-changed on life's good experiences and how the future may well turn out if he doesn't make a sharp turn presently. It is so fitting to what I've been thinking about myself and talking about recently with just about everyone. Perhaps, it is because of the financial collapse of the last few years, but it seems like so many of us are reassessing our values and even our dreams for the future. I've been conscious of the word "divergence" and the idea of how we may correct our course mid-life, later in life...once we've gone as far as we can go on the course that our divergence leads us to take.

Christmas was a very happy time for me personally, being an only child and having low expectations always. I always received more than I expected. Perhaps that is why from the very beginning though I felt the tug of the bah-humbug, I rallied against it by committing myself to perpetual cheeriness to the point of insanity. I would be the anti-Scrooge most of my life, always giving much more than I had to give and wanting to give more. Did this come from guilt? Perhaps. I don't know. All I can say is that I felt driven by a belief that Christmas must live up to a promise of happiness that I could only grasp at by giving it all I had to give.

This year I've come to understand that another word for "belief" is "hypothesis," and that practicing beliefs is really attempting to prove that hypothesis and make it a working hypothesis. I hope I'm saying that right. My practices in Christmas past were attempts to make a working hypothesis of the season that I had relatively little to do with in reality. I was raised without religion other than consumerist guilt. My father used to say that Christmas shopping was an exercise in buying until he felt less guilty. So, that was half of my religion; though, for him it was important to make everyone around him feel guilty for making him do such a thing. He even designed his own "bah-humbug" wrapping paper using his blueprint copier. My mother and step-mother claimed to be giving from the goodness of their hearts, though often it felt that they were using Christmas to argue with my father. They each had their strategies for making the holidays "fun" which were related to decorations and creating tableaus of beautiful, shiny objects on every surface.

I am remembered, by some, at a certain point of my life, as doing a different Christmas tree each year...yes all new decorations, new themes, new lights. I'm remembered for festive parties (to go with the decorative themes). I am remembered for wrapping presents with enormous bows and decorative cards. I'm remembered for insisting on caroling down the middle of the street. I'm remembered for being the one with the mistletoe, the scented candles, the swag. I'm remembered for sending out Christmas cards with long-hand written notes to hundreds. I'm remembered for baking gingerbread and cookies, for designing, by hand, architectural wonders from candy and gingerbread, making extravagant holiday meals, creating decorative tableaus of beautiful, shiny objects on every surface. Not all of this was a success by a long-run, but I attempted to pull it all off every year, for many years. I know there are some of you out there who will defend your right to continue doing this, and I say, more power to you.

This is the past that haunts me, and feels like heavy chains of burden, I still carry to this day. I can't live up to myself anymore. That's the truth. I've been through too much in the past decade to believe that creating that kind of hooplah will make anyone, least of all myself, happy. It is no longer worth it to me to be in debt at the start of the next year, sick and tired, and hung over from too much everything. Yet, I also do not want to be like my Dad, bah-humbugging other people's joy. I've been seeking some sort of peace around how to relate my Christmas past experiences with the small, simple realities of my present. Truly I am more like the Cratchit family than anyone else in A Christmas Carol tale these days, in my feeling that Christmas must be celebrated no matter the limitations. How do we make Christmas season a pleasure rather than a burden, framed by past Christmases?

I'm urged on by my children's juiced up desire to have a Christmas like Christmas Past that they remember before the divorce, when I was still trying so hard to live up to myself in spite of considerable odds against me. Please note that my first marriage ended in January. Not being able to deliver that to them is painful to me, and yet I see it as a gift. The gift is recalibrating reality somehow so that joy is no longer equated with too many boxes of toys that end up shelved within a week. Without a religion to call my own, and turning away from consumerism it is definitely challenging to come up with some experience of Christmas Present that works for all of us...that has some real meaning and isn't just another day in life...and that isn't a trumped up meaningless exercise in fakery.  Maybe it will take looking at Christmas Futures, the potential outcomes of this hypothesis that Christmas matters to families and friends enough to invest in it even with limitations...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Of Trees and Idleness

"Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good."  - Soren Kierkegaard

It seems this blog increasingly is a defense of idleness, not that idleness needs for me to defend it. At any rate, this time of the year, in particular -- the holidays, the holy days, the black days, the dark days, the feast days, the days of light and delight -- it seems that there is a force behind us with a whip that demands busy, over-commitment. Already, with Thanksgiving behind us now, we might be in full gear to drive our lives to collapse. This is something that I am increasingly rejecting, year-by-year, because it gets in the way of my observing nature's show, the changes in my children or really being able to listen to the silent night.

It used to be that I loved the holidays because they allowed me to really be a show-off. I was one of those people who gets the cards out, who decorates the house to the nines, who throws parties, wraps every present with fancy bows, does secret Santa, decorates cookies, makes new ornaments every year, and fills advent calendars with little gifts every day and a scavenger hunt on Christmas Eve, goes to every Christmas concert, ballet and school fundraiser. I was higher than a kite on the sparkle. The holidays were a full-time job from November 1st through New Years, and then I was sick for the month of January. I determined about 15 years ago that part of the problem was that I was allergic to the mold that grows on cut Christmas trees and so I invested in a beautiful fake Douglas Fir that fooled even old timers in Oregon. It lasted for 12 years before losing enough of it's fancy needles that it needed to be replaced. But, this fake tree only allowed me to start the holiday madness sooner, and then I was still sick for the month of January due to pure exhaustion.

My children remember "that me" well enough that they're a little stung that I threw away the advent calendar last year and replaced it with cards that could be opened to was not the same. So I found out what mattered to them. They wonder where are the parties for organized caroling? There must be a free Handel's Messiah Sing-Along that we can go to this year. The last four years have been the great reduction, and enough so that I wonder at my own former insanity. I no longer send many Christmas cards - maybe only a dozen -- if I can get to them. I don't even send personalized emails - though that was a transitional mode that loosened me from the tradition. I apologize and post a big "happy..." on the day and that is good enough. 

The residual guilt pile is melting as the years go by. It is not at all that I'm a Scrooge or a Grinch. I am not a Bah-Humbug. I love this time of year still, and I praise every one's well-being. I still love all of my friends and family, too. It's just that I love myself a little better than I used to love myself. I see that love doesn't require me to always be "The Giving Tree".

Initially, the let go began because I was, frankly, broke, and I'm still too broke to do all that I used to try to do even if I spread it out the entire year. I simply don't have much extra to give still. I try to make up for lack of cash with giving my time, either by making gifts or spending time with others, but have discovered that there actually isn't enough extra time to make up for the lack of wrapped gifts no matter the strategy. So, I have come to accept that doing my best is good enough, and that doing my best means not letting go of my personal strivings even through the holidays. This allows me to occasionally experience honest good cheer and peace on earth.

This year I will spend time reading to my kids, even though my daughter will argue that she's too old to be read to, and then I'll ask them to read to me. We'll feed the wintering Canadian geese at our little lake. We'll play board games and cards by candlelight, and share memories of those insane times and laugh. We'll have donuts for Hanukah, and gingerbread for Christmas. There will be some traditions that will come back -- the advent calendar of felt I was so happy to find is already hanging waiting to be filled with little things that surprise them. We'll cook a special meal together, and bake cookies when we have a chance. School projects will be priorities, and congratulations for a job well done may include a special treat. Christmas morning will be de-emphasized for gifts and emphasized for time with family to relax and be together with nothing looming over our heads that has to be done. And, I will continue to write first, and celebrate after. 

I look to the trees, those who hibernate, naked in the cold winds, those who are evergreen, distant palms waving over warm seas, and even those imitations made of paper and plastic and electric lights, and see their beauty is absolute stillness. I think of the thousands of Madonna's curled around their babies in paintings and frescoes and see their peace in focused attention. I remember the oil lamps of my ancestors lighting their windows as a sign of faith that goodness always underlies experience. All of these symbols are quiet and gentle, and I choose to emulate them and turn my back against the raging winds around me. Bundled up, I look up to the stars each night, earlier and earlier, and wish for love to be my guide.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Facing the Dragon

I was going to be very clever and write a recipe for baking a fear hallow. With ingredients like low self-esteem flour and doubt spice, I thought I could easily explain in a general way how this hallow of mine became such a thing. I was deflecting. I was being clever. I admit it. I don't really want you to know the real deal because that is how ashamed I am of this hallow.

You see, I was apparently making progress in 1996 before I had my daughter Bea. The operative word is apparently. Sure I had secured a great consulting job, and it looked like I'd be able to do everything I wanted to do, but the truth is that job was as much a part of my deathly hallow as having a baby was a part of it. The hallow is older than fourteen years.

I realized this sometime in the middle of the night last night. I've realized it before, but I keep forgetting. Isn't that interesting that the hallow, the fear that drives us is so forgettable? It is almost as if it is infused with an amnesia potion. A little bit of smoke and mirrors and I carry on with my life, bearing the hallow on my shoulders without even knowing it. This little hallow has become a dragon, so heavy, so frightening with sharp talons and fiery breath and stinking, hard scales that clink when we move together. I'm carrying the dragon on my back and it is a load.

How am I supposed to become this fragile, pretty butterfly with a dragon on my back? That's what I'd like to know (she says with hands on her hips). It is obvious that it is unlikely to work. I have become weighted to such a degree that folding myself up seems like it might be less painful than going on, or I could flip and face this dragon. I'll let it sit on my belly and I will tell the dragon I'd rather die than keep carrying it around. I could dare it to just kill me. So, that's what I'm doing.

I'll tell you that I suspect that the dragon is my fear of being. Yes, that is it. Just simply I am afraid to be me, and to discover my full flight because it seems to be in conflict with my one time...the responsibility of becoming a productive member of society, and now of being a mom to two wonderful kids, and wife to a great man, of being someone else who isn't me, and I could keep inventing the person who isn't me forever. I could continue the belief that I can't go anywhere and be myself. The current excuses:
  • I have two kids. 
  • I have a husband. 
  • I'm tethered to this town I live in. 
  • It doesn't matter if it doesn't work for me. 
  • It is what I have to do because I had my kids and seeing them grow and become themselves is so much more important than me growing to become myself. 
  • I don't have to learn to use these wings anyway because I'm living in a freaking pavilion and I can't see the sky. 
  • Might as well just crawl around on the ground. 
  • I give up. 
Even before I had kids, the dragon was still carrying on its diatribe that I needed to be more responsible, which is why I got the great consulting job to begin with years and years ago. It didn't matter that that job conflicted with my own flight. It was an opportunity to be responsible rather than to be me...because, you know, being me is totally irresponsible. This is the circle I've been marching around on over and over and over again for as long as I can remember.

I know, I know. It sounds like depression. I also know that it is an illusion just like everything else, but I  am choosing to face it and ask it what for? I don't have even a silver dagger to slay it with, just my determination to end this lugging around.Why should I be walking around guessing that everyone else needs for me to be dead so that they can live? This is a role I learned early, but it doesn't mean the curtain can't fall on it. I could take a final bow on this role because I know it is just a character I've been playing. So, I'm turning to face the dragon who breathes on my neck and tells me that I can't do myself and take care of my responsibilities at the same time. This dragon who whispers into my ear every time I have an inspired thought, "You're being selfish."

Okay. I'm going to flip onto my back now, and tell this dragon to bugger off or kill me. I'm going to be myself even if it seems to be totally irresponsible. I'm going to write a novel even if it takes me ten years to complete it. I'm going to teach my kids to do their own laundry, and make their own lunches. I'm going to start exercising again, and I might even go dancing even if my sweet lover man isn't really that interested.  I'm going to write a novel that considers ideas superior to plot. It might not even ever sell. But that's what I'm going to do because it is me, it is what feels most like flying. So, here I go.

I'm lying on my back. My belly is showing. I feel very tender and scared of those talons so I'm closing my eyes for a moment for the impact. Nothing. I reach upwards. I can hear the clinking scales, I can smell the sulfur breath but I feel...nothing. One eye opens. I see where I thought my hand was, there is a wing of gossamer and sparkle, reaching up. I reach my other hand up and see another wing. My heart races.  I stick my feet in the air, and my God! They are talons! What can this mean?

When I finally rise up and look into a clear, glassy lake of self-reflection, I discover that I have been afraid of myself and nothing else. I am the hallow. I am the dragon. I already have wings, look at them (!) and choices about how to be me even if it upsets the apple cart, even if it lights the flipping apple cart on fire because I don't quite know how to be the real me without some fallout. Even if there is no grace period to learn to fly. I'll do it in fits and starts, but by God, I'll fly with these crazy bat-like wings. I'll get used to being the dragon because the dragon is with me, is me, no matter what I do to hide it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day of the Dead - A reason for living

These three days, October 31, November 1 & 2, have largely lost their meaning in the modern world. Insistence on acknowledging traditions at this time of year is sort of hackneyed and a tribute to the business of candy more than anything else. But, if we will take the time to wonder at the transition of seasons, in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, maybe we can touch something larger than ourselves for a moment. If we observe that there is no going backwards, that change is inevitable, that remembrance has its time and place, and then it should be released, then we can get a handle on why Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, and All Souls Day, might be worth latching onto -because it nods its head to the only truth there is on planet earth. Our lives as we know them, are temporary ventures.

Whether we believe in Heaven and Hell, Reincarnation and Karma, or nothingness when we die, the fact remains that as we are today is a temporal anomaly, not to be repeated or retreated from, and is a limited edition of one. This experience is unique and valuable because it is a one-time only deal. Even if you do come back as someone else in some other age, even if you do get to go to some paradise down a long dark tunnel, this part of the dream is not repeatable. We don't get a "Ground Hog's Day" or a "Hot Tub Time Machine" to do it again. and neither did our ancestors.

The Kosmic Egg is a great symbol for this day, as it gives you a "before" and "after" idea for how this life might work. Before you reach a certain age and awareness, happy is the "before" life, perfectly contained within an egg. Experiences are added into life with the notion that it will always be a certain way. We can't help it because we don't know until the egg cracks that there is more. The egg cracks when we understand that we have chosen experiences in life that have been harmful to ourselves or others. The egg cracks when we understand that life can't stay small any more if we are going to live to be ourselves in this world. The egg cracks when disappointment tips the balance and we fall into a dark night of the soul to discover what we've been shoving into that cosmic closet of ours. After the Kosmic Egg cracks, we can understand it as an initiation into a larger truth, and an expanded human experience. It happens at different times for different people. It is rare that a person can skip through it, though some try very hard to ignore it, or numb it out.

That crack usually has something to do with death. Whether it is the death of a dream, the death of a way of being, the death of someone close to us, or an illness threatening our own death it is a period of grief, rip-out-our-hearts grief, and we search for meaning in it. Anyone who's listened to the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" knows that there is no way to put everything back together in a life, to put it back the way it was before. But, the symbol of the egg doesn't have to be scrambled. Often that egg cracks because the new life inside can no longer survive confined.

The new life inside that egg has evolved to the point of no return. I love that the Mexican tradition includes the symbol of the butterfly or mariposa in the transition at midnight between Dia de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents/Children) and Dia de los Muertos, because it is the symbol of the butterfly that best interprets the meaning of the cracked egg and what will follow. We cannot remain childish forever. At some point in life we must face mortality of that dream where things just work out, where we can mindlessly consume without offering back our full beauty and begin to take responsibility for ourselves...but what does that mean?

For many taking responsibility is a very sobering affair, and for some taking responsibility is the flight of the butterfly. I, obviously, prefer the latter. To think that I would shirk my duties, however, is to underestimate the flight of a butterfly. The fullest expression that I can imagine in life is to acknowledge our own fragility, and fly anyway. Can you imagine a pensive butterfly hanging forever to the broken chrysalis, considering how to climb back in and how dangerous a breeze can be? And yet, I admit, I have been this pensive butterfly, driven by fear of some boogie man, some ghostly hallow that attached to my psyche years ago.

Will I startle myself out of this pensiveness and finally blindly leap into the blue sky? I hope not. That has been my foolish start before and I seem to have landed back on this branch. So I'm turning against that instinct to depart and I'm turning towards the shadow to see what it really is. I think I know. I think it is perfectly expressed by Dia de las Muertos, and I will celebrate the opportunity with the sweetness of realization. Facing this zombie-like terror that is blocking the sun, I know it's a particular death, not just any death, and though I've confronted bits and pieces of it, I've never faced it head-on.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Hallow's Day

Today used to be one of the most sacred days of the year in some places around the world. It has been called All Saints Day in the Catholic Church, and of course, fans of the popular Harry Potter series will recognize "Hallows" as the seven objects that "He Who Shall Not Be Named" has imbued with bits and pieces of his soul. In my own studies of Tarot, the Hallows are the suits of the Minor Arcana that represent the four classic elements of Air, Water, Fire and Earth. However, I would suggest that we each have our own personal Hallows. These are things and ideas that we hold as self-evident and sacred, and they can be useful to us, inspiring us to achieve our goals, or they can become "sacred cows" and habits that we drag around with us unconsciously, using them as excuses not to move forward. Just as a Tarot card can be read right side up, or reversed, the Hallow itself is innocent, but our interpretation of its meaning can change its influence to good or evil.

Fear is such a Hallow. The things we identify as fearful and face become wonderful influences on our life. When we face fear it is firstly an identification issue. Simply giving name to that which we fear renders it less frightening. Thus Voldemort eventually loses his power by his name being repeated by Harry Potter and friends, until he and his Death Eaters begin to target those who use his name for torture or death. The reductive quality of simply calling the most evil wizard "Tom" might have worked even better, as you remember Dumbledore always calls his former student.

Notice that Voldemort names his followers "Death Eaters". What a ridiculous name, but it suggests that they have conquered the fear we all have -- that of death. It is a common initiatic process to try and force the initiate to face this shared fear and release it. The idea being that this release will free a person to achieve whatever it is they are here to achieve. Marvelous books have been written on the subject, having characters either overcoming death itself through immortality or by making death's sting less frightful. Some New Thought folks and New Agers approach fear simply by saying "there is nothing to fear, all is well," but are they really dealing with the fear or just kicking it down the road a bit? On Halloween we conquer our fears by becoming that which we fear - ghosts, goblins, zombies, witches, aliens, monsters, or...uh...princesses.

Somehow though these directions fail to be applied at the mundane level. We may have faced death itself and still be frightened of spiders. It's really ridiculous that we allow ourselves to indulge in little fears, but most of us do it. Currently, a huge fear looming over the world is the double-dip recession. OMG! We might be impoverished! To many, the crash of our financial systems was so overwhelming that they jumped out of windows or shot themselves dead - preferring the fear of death to the fear of poverty or financial and judicial retribution. People now are strategically foreclosing on homes they chose to buy because they don't want to stay committed to something that apparently has no real value, but what they really fear is that they are vulnerable, excruciatingly vulnerable. The fear of excruciating vulnerability is what is driving the economy to tatters. We might as well all be running through the streets naked right now for all the vulnerability in the air.

One of the reasons I think fear overtakes us is that we speed our lives up through consumption and grasping enough so that we don't have to consider what frightens us very much. Keeping the Hallows at bay, we think, is going to save us, but really all that strategy accomplishes is to guarantee that we will carry that fear with us into every decision we make, and that it will nag us endlessly and that it will become a bigger shadow looming over us. Part of the purpose of the Dark Night of the Soul is to finally face these shadows (darkness) in our own hearts and confront them. Rarely is this a picnic in the park, and it can be nicely compared with annihilation. Very uncomfortable.

If you read yesterday's blog, you know that I suspect a fear of mine has been dogging me since I had my first child, and I don't really know how to name it. So, today I decided I would call it my Hallow as a substitute acknowledgment until I can really see what it is exactly. I'm acknowledging the Hallow has been with me for about fourteen years. It's a nice, big, looming shadow that even at high noon doesn't go away. That's a long time to carry something like a fear, and no doubt it has put on weight (like I have) over those years of avoidance. There are even specific times when I felt the heft of it. I kept thinking I was facing it, but the fact that I'm still quite stymied makes me absolutely sure that I have not yet looked it in the eyes. Giving it a name is my way of saying, "I know you're there, Hallow, and I'm going to get to you. Know that, Hallow, I'm going to get to you. I am."

The Hallow is laughing back at me now, but that won't last.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fear on Hallowe'en...

We all strive to feel competent. Feeling competent doesn't jibe with our feelings of vulnerability on the surface. Yet, we are our most competent when we feel most vulnerable. It is those moments in life when we feel most alive, and possibly most like a fool. I am proposing that feeling like a fool is the best feeling in the world, and the most competent place to be in as a human being.

Isn't that opposite of the way we are taught to be successful in the world? We are taught that we'll feel most competent by being safe. If we find the right career, marry the right guy, have children at the most logical time to have children, eat right and exercise then everything will work out just perfectly. However, somehow life gets so much more complicated than these instructions are prepared to address.

Sometimes the right career for us has bad timing in the world - like say - journalism in the age of social media. Suddenly, we have to learn an entirely new way of getting our work out there. Maybe what we loved about journalism was the news room. Now we're working alone in our basement. Success is measured by the number of followers, but maybe we are used to getting awards to measure our success. Suddenly our competency has fallen into disrepair. We feel uncomfortable minimally or terrified at maximum feeling of incompetency. Suddenly, everything about our plan to be safe is wrong.

Now, there are a lot of New Agey books that tell you this. "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" by Susan Jeffers was one of my favorites in the genre, but I couldn't really figure out why it worked until I started trying it. The first time I tried it out, I was walking on a trail in New Hampshire on a beautiful fall day with my ex-husband. He was way ahead of me, and with each step I became more and more afraid because the leaves on the ground were dry and slippery, and I felt like the ground was literally being pulled out from under me. I was so afraid that I had to sit down and catch my breath. I couldn't see him anywhere, and I panicked. I thought maybe that I'd missed the trail somehow, and now not only could I not walk, but I was also lost about as far away from Hollywood as I could get on the same continent. Denying my fear was not helpful. I decided that I had to allow myself to feel my fear first of all. Knowing that I was not going to move, that wasband was unconcerned that I was so far behind he couldn't even see me, and that day would become night and night would be cold and I wasn't dressed for cold weather made me feel really afraid, but it didn't make me as afraid as I felt when I was walking on the slippery leaves...I was more afraid of falling on the slippery leaves, I had to admit to myself, than I was afraid of being alone in the woods on a cold autumn night. That's when I realized that true fear, as opposed to dread, was entirely temporal. I realized in that moment that I was more than my fear. It was a simple thing to face the moment of fear once I felt it for what it was. I got up and walked down the trail with absolutely no trouble.

Shortly after that I found it possible to walk away from a job that wasn't right for me. Then I found that I experienced a feeling of aliveness every time I faced my fear. It seemed that I was invincible for a while, and that I was evolving by leaps and bounds. I went from nearly bankrupt to successful within a year. Walking off cliffs would have turned into flights of fancy if only I hadn't become overwhelmed with fear again. The fear that I caught like a virus came along in the most unexpected way, and to be honest I have never been able to shake it since. I believe that I haven't been able to do what I did on that trail in New Hampshire because I'm so afraid of it that sometimes I really believe it, this fear, is bigger than me.

This is the moment then, to sit down on the trail and to face the fear for what it is...I had a child. This precious life brought back all the fears I had spit out like watermelon seeds on a summer's day. I had this child and now my mouth was filled with those same seeds, doubled it felt like, and I swallowed them whole. Then just like a child who is teased by a caring grandparent not to swallow watermelon seeds, I believed that those seeds of fear sprouted whole watermelons of fear. Why am I, nearly fourteen years later, with a sweet girl and lovely son, still afraid? And, I can say I'm still terrified.

I had my daughter at home, trying to face the fear head on as I had been doing so recently before she was conceived. Yeah, it hurt, but it was beautiful and I don't regret it. It didn't get rid of the gripping fear though. So, I can conclude since I've survived two home births that birthing children wasn't the fear. Also, I faced the fear of leaving her dad, and setting out on my own, and for a short time of blatant denial, one of the five stages of grief, I thought that maybe I was afraid of not providing her with the perfect nuclear family. Went through the divorce, faced a custody battle, and still the fear lingers. I fell in love again and brought a new man of a different color, different way and different background into my kids' lives and they embraced it and I still feel fearful. This means nothing else besides the fact that I haven't yet faced whatever it is that I am so afraid of. Finding out what that thing is, the slippery leaves, the thing that makes me feel the fear so acutely is my ferocious goal. I have the feeling that it may be as simple as slippery leaves if I can sit here and be quiet enough to look at it. I know that once I face this fear full on, that I'll have my mojo back and I'll be able to do the trail again...until then on this most haunted of nights...I'm sitting here watching myself squirm. Boo!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pause to Consider - A Blessing

Part of being vulnerable is dealing with over-reaction. As a writer, I already have a crucial tool in my hands for doing just that: the witness mind. Being a witness first and foremost allows every vulnerable person (i.e. all of us) to take one step back from reacting, and several steps back from over-reacting. However, you will notice as you take this time that the people you interact with expect that certainly, and always, you will react one way or another right away. I'm here to tell you that this is not necessarily beneficial for anyone, except perhaps for an Emergency Room Doctor, for a soldier fighting a battle or for a fire fighter.

I have found that holding my reaction even for a few moments in most situations is essential for taking true responsibility for my actions. It is more of a practice for me than a habit, still.

One thing I've always loved, about movies in particular, plays and sometimes books, is when a character reacts right away to something that has been said or done with a snappy remark. This is a fantasy. One of the roots of story telling allows us to skip over the boring parts like -- pausing to consider -- and right to the pithy reflection on the facts. That's because the story teller has done the pausing to consider part for months or possibly years before writing that meaty-meat comeback. Unfortunately, most of us don't realize this. We're steeped in television jokes, and sixty-minute lifetime resolutions as we go about our business. We feel the pressure to come back; to stand up and deliver on the first try.

That gets us into trouble nearly every time because it creates that "fight or flight" feeling of being excruciatingly vulnerable. Making decisions in a panic, defending ourselves without contemplation, and imposing order on the world around us from a knee-jerk perspective tends to pull down our house of cards faster than a Colorado wind-storm. Writing in this way is exactly what leads us down tangents that leave us wondering, "how did I get here?" With a story or script we can go back and erase those tangents leading nowhere, but in life it gets messy. There are really no strike outs or erasers in life that actually get rid of these mislead adventures completely. They have marked our souls with indelible markers. It behooves us, then, to have some inner peace about misadventures and dead ends or we would refuse to be vulnerable.

When we accept that being vulnerable is essential to using our abilities to do our best in the world, then we open ourselves up necessarily to the judgments and attacks of the insidious thoughts that have been placed there by often well-meaning people in our lives. Our behavior makes us look strange, nonsensical or even lax to the people who are used to defense mechanisms influencing or even ruling our action in the world. They may over-react with their own defense mechanisms: with panic, by justifying their actions, against the evidence of our own inaction. Pause to consider the option. Refusing to be vulnerable is firstly, an illusion or delusion, and secondly, vulnerability allows us to be authentic, and finally, being authentic means we do our best.

So, say, your ex-husband continues to send you emails years after your divorce demanding that you behave this way or that with your children. Your initial over-reaction may be to write back a snappy, cursing retort. Where would this lead you? Into a fight. The fight that has gone on for so long. The fight you tried to leave by divorcing him. Take a few steps back. Your reaction now is to shrug, to write a flip, "whatever" and close the door. Where would this lead you? Into a fight about your flip attitude and not taking his concerns about your children, your remaining joint responsibilities, seriously. Take another step back and pause to consider the issue. What he is saying about it? How do you actually feel? My guess is that you feel, as I have, vulnerable.

Sitting with vulnerability is initially excruciating. It is, surprisingly, something you can get used to. Only when you sit with this vulnerability will you allow yourself to take the time to find the authentic response. It may not be the response an other person wants or expects, but it will be the only true response you can give. You will find yourself choiceless, and for the first time maybe completely unconfused about the whys and the wherefores. This is the goal for heroic resolution in any story. Finally, the choices for the hero to be successful are narrowed to one. This is what it means to exercise true free will. So, indeed, vulnerability exercises ability, and makes the choice authentic -- a true blessing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ability equals vulnerability

It is a great ability to be able to conceal one's ability.
- Francois de La Rochefoucauld

This has been my mode of operation for as long as I can remember. I used to think that it was because of fear of success or fear of failure. I used to think it was cool to get out of daunting and overwhelming tasks by taking on less than what I was capable of in truth so that I could write privately. However,since I rebooted my life, I've been thinking a lot about why I haven't made greater strides as a writer within and beyond copy writing and consumer products, game scripts and teaching. Sure all of those things have kept me going but have never felt like "me". I always felt more like they were a perfect expression of that quote up there -- concealing my ability.


I don't know if the above link will work for you because I am still figuring out how blogs work, but I hope that it will. I loved this video by TEDxHouston with Brene Brown. So, if you can see it and keep it in mind as you read the rest of this post, you'll really get the full picture of what I'm writing about. If it directs you away from this blog, please come back...

Daily, when I sit down to write and am frozen in a paralytic conundrum, I feel that fear thing. Now, go a bit deeper. Why feel fear? What is there to fear? Something that comes up in Brene's talk is the concept of excruciating vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability when you dream you're taking a test and everything is going well, until you realize you're the only one in class who has no clothes on. Shame and blushing are overwhelming at times. The question goes from "why can't I write what I want to write?" to "why would I want to write???"

I just read a pot boiler mystery written by two women in the style of a Dan Brown occult mystery. As I read, even while I couldn't stop turning the pages, I had a running commentary going about how I knew what was going to happen, and that I felt it unworthy of my time. I was up until 3 am reading it to the last page this morning,mind you, but but but it was a pot boiler. What is that a sample of in my fear pool? That is feeling vulnerable, I suppose, followed by a numbing out to the joy of a book that kept me going nearly all night long.

Another example is "Eat, Pray, Love" which I've written about before with some disgust in these archives. A friend asked me to share my thoughts about the book, and again encouraged me to write about the difference in my own divorce experience. I phoo-phooed that as quickly as I could. Frankly, I don't care to expose myself. The feeling that comes up for me about writing extensively about my post-divorce life is nausea and pain, and post-divorce isn't all that bad. It is not that I'm unhappy with the outcome at all. It is that feeling vulnerable that I've been resisting.

So, I like this concept of authenticity being married to vulnerability. I believe it. I know that in my intimate relationships now, this is what truly makes them work. I am not uncomfortable with a friend who "unzips their arms and shows me their veins," as one put it a while ago. I am not afraid to show my ugly and beautiful parts. I know that is why I found such a good partner in my second go-round at marriage. In this at least I feel safe in my vulnerability finally. I don't feel like I'm burying some secret now.

Beginning my "big" project has been a fits and starts process already. Since only in the past few weeks have I started feeling normal physically, I've forgiven myself and have not given up. But, what I can tell you is that what I've been writing about here in the blog - point of view, voice, preparedness, practice, and commitment all have their roots in AUTHENTICITY. I am unable to move along in a story until it feels authentic. Unfortunately, when it feels authentic, my joy in the POV, voice, preparedness, practice and commitment is very temporary because then I feel vulnerable, and this on any given day is about a twenty minute process from start to finish.

My attention span is pretty short, I realize. My first inclination is to numb out. I reach for dark chocolate, a cup of coffee, or a stupid TV show. Then I am miserable because I haven't done anything. So then I start cleaning the house, cooking or worse yet FACEBOOKING. This pattern is so terribly predictable that I worry that I am not up to overcoming it. I don't know how to overcome my general feeling of unworthiness as a writer. Cringe! But day by day I'm trying to add minutes to my acceptance of vulnerability because I believe minute by minute I can become more comfortable somehow, as if by magic.

One of my writer friends suggests that was there a paycheck attached to writing these speculative scripts and novels, then of course, that would motivate us to get work done and get past the emotional namby-pamby fear and shame factors. I know that this is not true always. I have made a great deal of money in the past for copy writing and sometimes have nearly had to nail myself to a chair to finish the product.

The shame goes spiraling deeper into my psyche the more authentically I write, and yet only when I write authentically can I stay interested and intrigued. This tension of avoiding vulnerability and yet understanding that it is really the only reason to keep going has made my career field of choice a minefield...of opportunity. My first question is always, "how can I make this a blessing?"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Caught between worlds this election...

Still I beat the drum for my party, the Democrats in case you missed it along the way, with hope that there will be renewed humility and hard work to come out of the party in the years to come. Our values are in the right place. I still believe in a broad list of progressive ideals in spite of becoming more jaded and cynical in the last five years than I've ever been before.

For instance, the reason I really like Senator Michael Bennet is because he's so darned successful at being himself. He has never looked at a problem without turning it into an opportunity to evolve. He progresses, with each job, to be of better service to those around him. This aligns with a way of being that I believe in more than a list of positions and votes. This may seem counter-intuitive to a political campaign but I find it refreshing that he's actually chopped wood and done home home, and then turned around and earned $11 million dollars by turning a failing company into a profitable one, and then turned around and worked as a Chief of Staff in Mayor Hickenlooper's office, and then accepted the challenge of heading the Denver Public Schools. That he's been in Washington, D.C., as our Senator for the last year and some months has simply been an extension of his life path -- being of service to others. I can see a congruent set of values from this apparent evolution that benefits not only his family but also fellow human beings. I simply feel good about Michael Bennet as a man, and I have faith that he will view the challenges he seeks in the Senate as opportunities to bring about those benefits to Coloradoans rather than as opportunities to get attention or power for himself.

What my sweet Republican sees is something different. He sees a conundrum of mixed priorities. He wants a clear number one priority from our elected officials and that is money in our family's account by virtue of a good job and benefits, reasonable taxes and low expenditures. Now this may seem selfish, but I assure you he is not ungenerous in any way. He simply looks at the world through a lens of survival of the fittest, and he's not feeling very good about much of anything that has come to pass over the last two years of Democratic majority. He doesn't believe in good intentions because he sees everyone in politics as potentially corrupt, so he wants their corruption to lead to better jobs and opportunities for him to make it on his own without government interventions. In fact he views congressional gridlock as a possible solution to bad choices.

I don't think he's alone folks. The mere fact that corporations do not know what their taxes will be for this year and coming years does not get blamed in my Republican's mind on the polarization of two parties, but on the leadership of the party in charge - uh the Democrats. He sees the Democrats as effeminate, and over-sensitive to a fault. (Yes, I'm a feminist and I just said that.) He calls our President "no balls" and obviously this is somewhat painful to him as they are both black men of the same generation, succeeding at a level that seems predetermined no matter how high on the ladder they get. He wants President Obama to hold his own rather than explain and explain and explain how it is going to work someday when everyone agrees.

This makes me think of Co-Housing. I used to have a fantasy about living in Co-Housing. That's how liberal I am. At least that was until I learned that everything is done by consensus in Co-Housing. I do believe this is a principle Democrats of a certain age believe in fervently. Perhaps it comes out of the basic "Question Authority" bumper sticker age. The enmity and suspicion of anyone who claims authority is often palpable in crowds of Democrats. We're not the kind of people who want someone in charge who actually believes that they are in charge. It seems almost fascist to us somehow to think of a structure where one person, or a very select group of people are allowed to run with decisions and make it work.

I know that some Democrats, Independents and Republicans plan to sit out this election because they're disappointed, but folks this action is not going to have the impact you want. I understand it is important for everyone to have a voice, but we live in a Republic of representative government, and someone has to stand her or his ground. That is what is ahead of the next Congress. That is what is ahead in the State of Colorado. Open your eyes and think about who you want to have stand his or her ground for us in Congress and at the state level.

I do believe the slate of Democrats we could send to Congress and to our local State House are a unique group in that they are willing to stand their ground, even if it isn't perfect for everyone. We must accept the incremental process of democracy. It was designed to move more slowly than your PC, but it must become more efficient than it has been for the last two years. This country looks like it is for sale right now. There is a big sign on our front lawn, and foreclosure is a real possibility. If we keep the attitude we've been nursing, that everything must be decided by consensus, then we will face harder times in the years to come.

When I look at the alternative Republican candidates I am appalled, frankly, by their point of view, no matter that their priority seems to solidify behind the idea of making money some how or other. It's a question of who is going to profit and how they will benefit Colorado? From Dan Maes and Ken Buck to my local State Senate candidate, the over-riding attitude of disregard for the well-being of women, for our education system (which is our future), for the world we live in makes me want to vomit. That we would actually choose to sink backwards towards this disregard and into a world that is only profitable to a few seems hopeless to me and evidential of our failure, Democrat's failure, to unite this country behind a concept that seems to be second-nature to Gubernatorial candidate Hickenlooper, Senator Michael Bennet, Representatives Salazar, Markey, Perlmutter and Polis -- SUCCESS.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It may seem...

I know that it looks like nothing is going on. The field of the future orchard is now full with above waist-high rye, and I don't seem to be doing anything about it. I wrote all summer, but still have not found the voice I'm looking for. Stories that I think are funny came out "sort of sad." Therefore, I'm still searching for just the right heirloom peach trees to plant, and eating peaches now is kind of disappointing to be honest. Where they were sweet and juicy a month and more ago, they now show up in the markets hard as rocks and then turn to meal in your mouth. Therefore, a delay seems to be in order.

Ack! I hate the notion that I may be procrastinating. However, doesn't procrastination require some full-fledged plan that one is avoiding? In writing a person has to have a story to tell, right? A peach grower has to have peach trees to plant. It may be that I have too many, or not enough, but whatever it is, I feel totally stymied.

If you've been reading here, you know that I had surgery a mere three weeks ago to take out an actual organ and bizarre growths from my belly. That should be my ticket to rest, but as it turns out for most moms, as soon as I was well enough to walk around one of my children had a virus. So, I just jumped back into activity-ville and sort of feel like I might as well keep on going. I don't feel like I can excuse myself from forging on because of a little bit of cramping. Sigh.

The purpose of this rye cover crop (writing only for voice) in my imaginary future orchard (writing for production) was to nurture the soil, because I guess it draws some nutrients up through its roots. Then also it is meant to crowd out weeds (which in a writer's mind would be all of the distractions that come along). My rye crop has been sort of anemic on these points. Here is what I nurtured my mind with over the course of months: several short stories, a cosmological essay, reading the Tao te Ching.

Still weeds got into the area. Some of the weeds were terrific nettles with their gorgeous purple flowers protected by sharp, minuscule thorns. Nettles reach even deeper into the earth for nutrition than rye, and so I can't resent their presence because they did get me in touch with concepts I'd forgotten to keep forward in my thinking - namely the Goddess, and her many faces. Having to deal with my feminine health and a hysterectomy took up most of my thoughts for months. It was both a beautiful and thorny focus. The richness it brought back to the surface is rare and will feed my writing for years to come.

I had this super high tech surgery that took a pound of flesh out of me through four holes less than an inch wide. I've been thinking of "The Merchant of Venice" and what Shylock might make of the fact that I survived losing a pound of flesh, so well. I've been thinking what my pound of flesh is paying off, balancing out. In "The Merchant of Venice" Shylock, the Jewish money-lender, is a wounded individual on many levels and he's often played on the most evil of terms, but years ago I saw a sympathetic Shylock at the Barbican in London, and since I'm half Jewish myself I've always sympathized with his character somehow. The only control over the world he has is his Jewish faith and money lending, and in this play he loses control of both. Clearly, he hopes for revenge and the death of his tormentor, Antonio, by making a pound of his flesh the payment of an unmet loan. Meanwhile, meanwhile, the women in this play, who have even less power over their world than a Jew, manage to take things into their own clever plans. Though Antonio and his "team" in the end get everything they want, nothing goes as they planned. This play touches on revenge, betrayal, faith, desperation, love and justice.

In "The Merchant of Venice", Portia must dress like a male law clerk to met out justice and save Antonio's life, but the audience is well aware she is an intelligent woman. I wonder if hidden in this message that Shylock may take the pound of flesh but no blood, is a subtle understanding that women understand the loss of blood better than any man can. Between puberty and menopause a woman loses a lot of blood. I figured out that I had had approximately 400 periods in my life. That's a lot of blood, and yet we live. A man as powerful as Antonio cannot lose blood like that and survive. Yet Portia can slip in and out of his world by simply changing clothes.

I offered my over-abundant womb as a sacrifice to Ereshkigal, the dark, underworld Goddess of Sumeria. Though the pathological lab wouldn't give me the actual remains I trust that intention carried the day. Why would I do this? Ereshkigal is both the underworld itself, and its judge and mistress. The desire by all living beings is to transmute the "unproductive cycle" that we understand as winter, and which is associated with death. So to escape my own death perhaps in part, I dedicated my surgery to Ereshkigal. But, it wasn't physical death I was thinking of, it was the death of what I could create on earth.

My children came out of me, 8 and 9 lbs of flesh, due to the womb I once had. They are without a doubt my greatest contributions. Since my son was born each year I had lost more and more blood, which turned out to be actually vitality. This surgery was a bargain with my body, to give it more blood, more vitality, to give up the potential of creating another life to go out into the world and make wonders. Since I paid the fee up front, I am hopeful that now I will have the energy to produce smaller, less important works that can somehow, someday sustain me.

I have all fall, which just started a week after my surgery, and early spring in which to plant my peach saplings. I want to fulfill my end of the bargain of giving up my physical fertility in favor of the fertility of my mind. We're still having 80 degree days, and haven't experienced our first frost yet. So, I will be soothed somewhat by acknowledging there is an honest delay, but I haven't forgotten my commitment. Patience is my practice. Cheers to an extended Indian Summer!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

a sacred sacrifice

Sister was born with me. She lived in the southern region for all of my years so far. In her youth her only job was the same as grow strong and independent.

One day, about fourteen years into life, Sister woke up to her purpose. Filling with the Moon, she became full of herself. Her moods changed. She demanded attention when darkness fell, and the Moon reflected less light, afraid she would never become full of confidence again. After years of this cycle, she became used to it. She fell into a rhythm like the tides of the ocean. Sister hit her stride. Sweet, tidy and pink she went about her business ignorant that there would be more demanded of her.

As time went on, she found herself reaching out to become more, as we all do. She sought her purpose with a vigor that she demanded be matched by the desire of some puny little fish that swam in one day. She would never make it easy to take her over by anything less than a wish for life. And, sure enough life grew within her. During those 9 months she stretched to her capacity and then stretched further. She became the ocean itself. She became the vessel for all beginnings, the vesica piscis, the perfect one. Creation itself happened upon her shores and she reveled that she should be so lucky as to have this purpose: the Great Creatrix.

Sister was visited somewhere along the way by a muscular stranger. This stranger attached itself to her walls, fed upon her tide pools, and became stronger and invited more. All the while Sister kept to her work of creation and manifestation. Two perfect beings were squeezed out of her sea when the time was right, and though it was taxing beyond belief, Sister felt fulfilled again in yet a more profound way, and she rested.

All the while the muscular strangers became more vigorous and insistent about space. It was like this one day: Sister still felt as beautiful and pink as ever when she went out to the movies. She took her seat half way down the row of seats as she always had, to get the best view of the action. Trailing with her were these big sweaty rednecks who she politely ignored most of the time. But when she was with the Moon, full in her splendor, she found she couldn't take her place quite right, she was in fact right of center, pushed off course. And, when she had to shed her fullness, the strangers got in the way, and she pushed them with all the might she had to push two children into the world, but they would not leave. Sister became exhausted. So there she was at the movies, and these strangers took the seat in front of her, and beside her, and the biggest one sat on the back of his seat and fell backwards on top of her smothering her until she could hardly breath much less watch the creation she'd come to watch as the puny little fish came towards her with a wish for life.

She pushed that stranger out of the way as much as she could and offered the empty corner of what was left of her vast ocean to the life that wanted to be. And, they tried to repeat the miracle. Alas. The little life could only grow for a few weeks before the strangers smothered it with jealousy claiming Sister was THEIR mother, and they would not share her anymore. The little life resigned its light to some other realm, and left Sister bereft for months. She convulsed violently to rid herself of these obnoxious strangers who would never amount to anything but hardened,lost dreams. She pushed and pushed, and bled out more than she could bleed out, and the rest of the month lay there in a pool of self-doubt urging me to help, to take some action that could relieve her misery.

How can one say good-bye to a twin, a sister who is so much more impressive than one admittedly is or may ever be? My Sister within gave life to my greatest joys, and to just abandon her to some surgical solution seemed overwhelming and disrespectful. But, when I got a load of those strangers suckling greedily upon her, I realized that something had to be done. And, I did hope we could just get rid of the strangers and continue on our journey of Creation on the physical plane together. That was possible for a time perhaps, but it went on so long that the strangers were having a party now at both our expense, embedding themselves deeply into the vascular streams that fed the ocean. Two ways presented themselves. Let the strangers have their party until Sister or I died, whichever came first, or make a sacrifice of death befitting a Goddess.

Sister showed me what it was like with that vision of having a stranger suffocate her at the movies. I couldn't believe I'd let that go on so long, but I was unaware of her problems as I nursed her creations in life. Now that we understood each other we could find a way to make it beautiful together. Understanding that an initiation is the process of transmutation, giving up one thing to take on another, sacrificing a part of oneself, that another might blossom, Sister offered her existence to me to consider an unexpected appeasement to Creation.

When we initiated together in the cause of the physical plane, we were an amazing and smashing success until the invasion of the strangers. I mean we fulfilled our purpose together perfectly. We sacrificed our time, our energy, our appearance, our everything to participate in giving new life, and we hummed. It was an easy sacrifice. It should be noted and celebrated that we can hardly call ourselves a failure in that respect. The fact that the strangers couldn't be shed is perhaps a genetic lesson passed down from grandmother to mother, mother to daughter until finally one of us makes a conscious effort to comprehend it.

I was told by wise woman, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, that the masters of old believed that a body part lost in this realm is believed to continue to exist in the spirit realm, perfect, whole and complete and ready to work on a different level. The uterus, my Sister, is the vessel of creation, the embracer of magik, the great manifester, and she's been really awesome in every regard. I thank her for her partnership, and her innate wisdom as my teacher in listening to the rhythms of life Hirself. But this final physical act may be her most glorious.

Willingly, she leaves this body because we both know that the strangers cannot follow her there as long as we make this sacrifice a conscious one. We sacrifice the physical life of this womb as an act of initiation into the Creation and Manifestation of that which will best Serve Love. In the Spirit Realm Sister will hold open the space for new ideas to take hold, and she will help me to nurture them and keep them in the oven of manifestation until they are ready to be pushed through the birth canal and into the World here and beyond. I make no apologies for sounding off for the love of wombs gone everywhere. We do not hate you when we let you go with this fullness of intention. This is not an easy sacrifice, but finally a necessary one and I am with you, Sister.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part Three - Cultivation of Shadows and Light

Nothing is more delightful on a hot, summer's day than a deep dark shadow, dappled shade or a passing cloud. Yet, in our lives we resent these obstructions of the light in our path. Refusing to look at them, we gaze at the sun stubbornly, the "good" parts of our lives. The result is obvious in a material sense, we become blinded, and in a symbolic sense we project those shadows onto the people around us, blind to the fact that they are our own. These projected villains must play one role only in our lives, and that is to make us look at our own shadow finally.

This is a big reason that I'm choosing to plant an orchard rather than melons or some low-growing, faster-developing crop that casts only the smallest shadows in the brilliant sunshine. I plan to enjoy the dark shadows that fall beneath the canopy of my storied place. My goal is to fall in love with the villains as much as the heroes finally. Because without the villains poking the heroes like voodoo doctors there would be no chance of the heroes' transformations. I plan to sink down to the tips of my tree's roots to find the nutrition of this fertile field.

When you think of the combination of shadows and roots, as compared to the trees, leaves and branches and fruit, it really comes out about equally in terms of light and dark. The birds and butterflies interact with the canopy. The worms and ants interact with the roots. All told there are stories abounding above and below in a constant rhythm of life. And, me? I get to walk in the dappled sunlight between the worlds, looking up to the backlit green, and looking down into the pithy earth. My role is to be a caretaker of words, and let them flow and grow, and nurture them as well as I can.

How does one let writing happen? In the past it was all about forcing the growth, plotting and planning some idea into shape and size. To think of it as cultivation rather than production is something new. Cultivating an atmosphere in my brain where life can take hold and courageously grow means that I am more a channel than a manufacturer. It means that all I can do is hold a vision in my mind of that full grown peach tree, the blossoms, the leaves, the deep roots and finally the fruit, and do things like water, prune and fertilize.

Like I've said before, I've got the fertilization part down.

There's a spring-fed stream at the bottom of my field. It has sometimes become choked with debris and causes a soggy flooding of my field. So as the shadows grow longer this summer, and the sun creeps down South, I'll be working at clearing the stream and investigating ways of irrigating. How does one irrigate up hill? It must be possible. A tree may need 5 gallons of water per watering. How can a writer divvy up the emotions of experience so that there is just enough and not too much?

Right now I'm not at all worried about pruning. When the time comes to edit my work, I will turn to an expert for help. Now, I just want to set up the field so it works for an orchard of trees to grow from pits. The sun is at its zenith today. It is really summer solstice finally. For the next three months, I'll be looking at the potential pits, preparing the field, and getting the irrigation set up finally so that it doesn't overwhelm the orchard next spring.

I'll keep in mind the delightful shade of an orchard as my intended end-game while I work away at the endless chores of a writer that seem sometimes more like delay and procrastination than like the preparation they should be. Writing, surprisingly is not all about putting the words on the page. Writing is more about the cultivation of space, time and the flow of emotions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part Two - Non-material Light

Though we cannot hold onto material light because it comes and it goes, non-material Light is a different story entirely. What is it then? How can we hold it? Some wise sages have compared non-material Light to Love. Yet, even this becomes confusing as we imagine a grand romance between light and dark. It is not that kind of love, though certainly that is very ... uh ... lovely.

What I believe that non-material Light is is really closer to a shadowless day where everything is neutral finally, without contrast, where we can see both sides of the proverbial coin equally. Non-material Light is a fulcrum point upon which the world balances, kept in check. It is this point of peace that feels something like Love or acceptance or compassion for all. My favorite authors have achieved a sense of this by the end of their stories where the hero and the villain are equalized by the final outcome. Though it may seem the villain is "down," in fact, if the story is well-crafted this moment of gloom is the beginning of his or her journey to true balance.

In this balance of karma, of cause and effect, the zenith of power in the villain's life comes to an inevitable end, and the hero's darkest hour is redeemed. This is the story we read over and over again, and the movie we see over and over again, and we can't seem to get enough of it. It is quite simply as necessary to our existence as the nutrition of a well-grown peach. Understanding that we willingly re-order this show on cable and snicker over it in politics and hope for it when we spend $24 for a hard-cover novel, is accepting that this is what we came to earth to understand. We spin on a neutral axis, but we experience day and night. This sacred triangle of life is ever-moving, interacting and evolving (hopefully) so that when we're to the end of a life lived we have the sense that we've climbed a few of those spiral staircase steps, and have some perspective of our former innocence and our wisdom gained from the very trials we, at the time, wished we could avoid.

Down deep in the earth a peach pit is in a very dark place, yet something inside of it begins to grow. This life folded within the woodiness, begins to reach for something it only senses is good and necessary. How does it know? How can it imagine that one day it will be something more? Light. Curled in upon itself, like a new born in swaddling clothes, the strength of the seedling is able to break through the hard shell around it, and enter an unsafe world, reaching down for sustenance, reaching up for life, stretching and growing into something more than it was. When that seedling surfaces with a leaf, a single leaf, it finds the light, and strives for it. It must expand, become more than it was before, and it cannot stop this growing, adding a ring for every trip around that material light, until its journey is completely over. And, as it grows in the light, in the weather, and in time passing above the ground, so it is also growing down, and spreading into the seemingly impenetrable darkness. Without those deep, darkly surrounded roots, the peach would never happen.

So, it is that non-material Light, the Light of the World that is represented by these actions of pure intent, brings about peaches. Light, non-material Light, is appreciation. Appreciation from the heart is Joy. Joy is Contentment regardless of the circumstances. Contentment is Acceptance of the journey. Acceptance is Forgiveness of all the steps we took and missed. Forgiveness is Love for all that we are in our light and dark moments. Love is Light.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chapter Twelve - Part One - Summer Solstice

The longest days of the year are filled with light, but is it only material light? If it is material light then it can be taken away. We can grasp at these long days and wish for them to stay, but the earth continues her yearly sojourn around the sun, and the days will begin to dwindle in just a short time. The temporary nature of our joy, our light is always present even at its zenith. Thus, we celebrate to imprint the moment in our memory so that it shant be forgotten even in our darkest hour.

One day, someday, this empty field will be filled with ripening peaches at summer solstice. Today, however, I celebrate its rich, dark soil, empty but for a cover crop of rye grass. The rye was so green last week, and already I can imagine it tinged with gold. The smell of the earth is intoxicating to me today. It reminds me inextricably of childhood days that rambled along so slowly as I gazed out the window of my Pretty Pa's truck chewing on Double-Mint gum, and flying through the wind on the palm of my hand. Time flies by for us, and for fields, and so it shall be for my orchard.

When we plant an orchard we may only imagine the end result, those lovely, sweet peaches, perfectly ripe only for a few weeks every year. There are vast stretches of time before and after those peachy moments, and are they less important to us because they give us nothing to hold onto? Is it all anticipation and waiting then for those moments, those solstice-like moments in our lives where light is pronounced and shadows are long? Do we only pay attention to those experiences that are the extreme of the contrast? The empty days or the full days? The miserable days or the happy ones?

In fact, nature begs us to look closely at the in-between days. Our participation in the growing of plants goes back at least ten thousand years. Yet, even before that there were peaches, of course. Somehow we knew when to harvest the plenty of this world as we went, and my guess is it was specifically by paying attention, by being attuned, by awareness of the subtle changes of light and dark.

What does this have to do with writing then? It has everything to do with writing, especially writing screenplays. What are films but expressions of light and dark? The subtle changes of light on a character can reveal more than a packed bunch of words spewing from his mouth. Sometimes I regret the invention of "talkies" at all because I guess that I believe that the refinement of film will only come with the masterful use of light and dark as external reflections of the interior life of a character.

When we fail to understand the non-material light and dark in our lives by our own means, the external expression of a bald light bulb in an empty, windowless room can spell it out. Material light can locate those hard to reach spaces in our hearts, and the absence of that material light can fill us with the same fright as the darkest ego-driven thoughts we carry. Harsh shadows or soft glow can illuminate the subtleties of the emotional journey we take in this physical existence...not everyday is long, but each day and each kind of light is precious.

Today, as the rye grass waves shiny in the glorious light, not knowing its fate tomorrow when it will be harvested and plowed under, it reaches for the sun with innocent abandon. A moment of triumph that will fade as quickly as it came. The kid in the old pick-up truck leans as far out of the window as she can to run her hand over their tawny heads that look so silky and soft. Light floods the scene until the screen is a flash of white...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chapter Eleven - Part Three - Peach Pits

>I am so gratified to know that one can still grow peaches from peach pits. I live in some state of fright that Monsanto, and like-minded studios, have taken over peach growing and movie-making completely, by all means necessary including rendering the pits of peaches infertile, or the minds of humanity without a spark of their own in favor of "reality."

I will, therefore, resist the urge to have someone help me along with a sapling to graft my heirloom peaches to for quick growth. Finally, I have fully accepted that my writing takes time and nurturing that I can't get from working with quick-fix coaches. No one is going to tell me how and when and where to plant but the memoired expertise of those I admire. There I go making up words again. But, really, I want to only study those who have planted peaches from pits, or written from their beating hearts.

Sure there is always a ticking clock on progress. It's called "death." I do actually want to write my work before I die, and who knows when that fellow will come knocking and so there is always a sense of urgency along with my efforts to be patient with myself.

The Spaniards who brought the peach pits over on rickety-rockety sailing vessels probably thought about the fact that it would be at least 4 years before those peaches might bear a few fruit, but it didn't stop them from bringing their dreams along. Think about that. They came here with a long-term plan. They weren't here with the understanding that they'd raid a few Native villages for gold and leave. They planned to stay, to settle in, and to make new homes. To me, in this fast-paced, hurry up and make your million world, that is an astounding thing. They trusted at some level that they would survive until the peaches bore fruit, and they had zero evidence for this but a trust in God and their worthiness.

I know that they were naughty, naughty in taking over Native lands, and obliterating Native Cultures but still I find something very admirable in their vision. I know for instance that the Ladino Sephardi culture traveled across swamps and prairie to get right here to Southern Colorado in the 1500s, escaping Isabella's wrath against the Jews who ironically had allied with the Islamic Moroccans that had occupied Spain for 150 years or so. I can't really fault those Spaniards for wanting to find a new place to live. They brought peaches with them because they planned to stay.

And, so for me growing peaches from pits, or writing from my heart instead of for a quick buck, is all about staying, stability and presence in the life I live today and the hopes I have for tomorrow. Let others grow commercial peach orchards, and write blockbusters with all the bells and whistles. I trust that my heirloom peaches grown from pits, oddly shaped perhaps, subtle in their texture and color, will eventually get a reputation for sweet, slobbery goodness that cannot be forgotten easily, and that attract an audience who appreciate them for years.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chapter Eleven - Part Two - Commercial Peach Growing

Lack of enthusiasm is what gets most commercial peach growers out of the business. I can really understand that. One crop in every six to seven crops fails. Boy, does that sound familiar, only the odds are even greater for failure in Hollywood. This is an old story already on my blog, and my last trip around this block, I promise. There are all sorts of factors to making a successful career in any business. In peach growing it comes down to proximity to the markets, and frost. In screenwriting it does matter a bit if you're inside Hollywood or out, wherever you live you need to work those connections you have to the business, and frost can be related to "dumb luck," which many credit with making, breaking, reviving and surviving a career as a screenwriter.

The reason you want to plant a private or commercial orchard on a hill is to reduce the frost factor. You see the cold air and water sink into a valley, and if your peaches sit in that cold air, and waterlogged soil they will not thrive. So, how can one increase the elevation of a writing career? I tell my students all the time that "credibility" is the key to life in Hollywood. Everyone you bring your script to must be convinced that you live to serve the writing craft. Writers with produced scripts proudly list their "credits" at the top of their resumes. This comes before their philosophy about the thing they've written or the hopes they have for future works. Credits speak for themselves.

Credits lacking in produced scripts, a writer can begin to point to other accomplishments in the written word: magazine articles, produced plays, published stories and books, and even blogs. The point is to boost oneself and one's writing above that soggy, frosty valley of "never done this before." But, for most new screenwriters "never done this before" is what they present to agents and managers. They cannot be surprised then when those agents and managers give them the thumbs down, the frosty letter of rejection, leaving the writer in a soggy bog of their own creation.

I've got some luck on my side. I've got some odd credits. I've got some people in the business. I cannot boo-hoo my way into that soggy bog without some great effort to fail at the first sign of success. It's that first thing, lack of enthusiasm, that gets me. Let me repeat, in peach growing success comes down to proximity to the markets, and frost. I've got the metaphor taken care of for scriptwriting then. I don't really understand it. I want to be enthusiastic about my most commercial concepts, but I have an internal hedging my bets feeling of "it isn't exactly right." Every script I've ever written has felt like a race to get it done. It's been like trying to force trees to produce fruit before they're mature, I suppose. I just couldn't conceive of doing it without some kind of pay off and reward because my survival felt like it depended on a sale.

Of course, I've managed to survive for years without too many sales, and so I have to look at that spuriousness finally and say, "Nope. It really doesn't matter if I sell this right away. I'll find a way to keep my head above water in the meantime." This is a matter of course for anyone planning to plant an orchard from seeds, from the pits, but a philosophy I have never before embraced for any of my writing. My writing has always seemed desperate in its clawing to success. This is the first time in my life that I feel like I can take a deep breath and consider what the hell I'm doing as a writer from the perspective of thriving rather than surviving because someone believes in me and understands that in the best of times the writer's career that has deep roots and succeeds five out of six times takes the passage of years and a narrow focus on the craft to mature. This may ultimately be the "dumb luck" I missed out on before, and much more important to me than all of the "credits" I've used to elevate my writing above the fog. It increases my enthusiasm for the inherent risks involved with such ventures, and allows me to consider seriously whether I shall go commercial or heirloom in my work.

Even commercial orchards, grown from saplings, sturdy stock, take three to four years to produce fruit. I've never before been able to have a stable enough personal life to think three to four years from a starting point. I tell you that I am in such a new world, I might as well be a Spanish conquistador with a pocket full of peach pits.