Friday, November 2, 2012

Life Lived Well

You have probably noticed that I'm a big fan of anniversaries.  As I approach the one year mark from the day I crashed our beautiful truck, I find myself tangibly aware of the many blessings in my life.  It has been such a surprising and paradoxically predictable year - eleven months and one week of all the ups and downs that being alive seems to require.

     One incredible moment of clarity for me happened while I stood, cheering wildly, at Zoe's District Cross Country Meet.  The girls had already completed their race and were awaiting the results.  The first two teams by points would be going on to the State Meet and the places had just been too close for us to calculate the results.  Besides, we had the boys' team to cheer on. 

     If you have never been to a Cross Country meet, you are missing one of the most breathtakingly inspiring events in sports.  These kids are young in the world, just 13-18 years old.  They train for months racking up so many miles, going faster and further and steeper each week of the season.  Team scores are calculated figuring the places of the fastest five runners on each team - the first place athlete gets one point, second gets two points and so on.  Thus, the team with the lowest score wins.  Even in a field of 125 runners and twelve teams, where you place matters to the team. 

I was near the final lap of the 3.1 mile race.  It had been raining lightly all day and the temperatures never got more than about 55 degrees. Several young men had already passed the fans at my corner, all receiving jubilant encouragement and shouts to run even faster.  In the space between runners, I heard one of the other spectators speaking quietly, urgently.  He was the Coach for the Jr. High team who would run after the completion of the boys' race and award ceremony for the High School teams.  "This is how you learn to do something hard," he was telling his very young runners. 
  I could not help but turn to look.  All of them were bundled in sweats and jackets, hair wet and getting wetter.  All of them watched either their Coach or the young men pushing their exhausted bodies to go faster for a little bit longer.  "Sometimes life can be really hard," the Coach continued.  "This is how you can learn how to do hard things."
  That day, Zoe's team got Third place by one point.  I watched the young women reach out and hold each other.  They had given everything they had, most of them setting personal records on that wet cold field.  Their boys' team did get Second and earn a chance to run again at the State Meet.  Tears of joy and tears of disappointment got all mixed up in the hugging.  In it all though, were tears of pride.  Not only had they learned how to do something hard, they had achieved it with such grace and such determination and such love for each other.
  I remain in awe of them.  So young to be so fierce.  With their bodies and will and hearts, they forged a promise to give everything to the team.  Who am I to do any less?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Remembering the Weir

I was reminded recently of the natural rush to complete the harvest at this time of year.  The fact that very few people weed and hoe, pick and process to secure adequate harvest for the Winter months does little to change this pattern of millenniums.  Back to school, back to work after vacation, back inside after a Summer spent outside all trigger a similar instinctual response:  "Am I ready?  Have I gathered up enough to see me through?".  The rush of time passing, the hectic flow of friends and neighbors all reacting to the change of season can feel inescapable.

Molly Hiatt for Power Yoga Company's Summer photo contest 2012
I love this picture of my friend Kathy's daughter Molly.  Posing for a yoga studio sponsored contest, she embodies the peace of someone who has looked inside and answered, "Yes, I have what I need."  The photo was taken in the middle of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo - one of the busiest intersections in the world. When the lights turn red at this busy junction, traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides.  Many, many times each day.  Every day.  

I am fascinated by the blur of human intention:  only one of those pedestrians looks back at Molly.  What is he thinking?  What about everybody else?  I wonder how that one moment in their day impacted them.  Were they so focused on the flow that Molly's lovely pose slid right past them?

I wonder how many Molly's I miss.  The energy of the weir is about more than simply slowing the rate of flow.  In the slower, calmer, eddying liquid, solid objects precipitate out.  Resources that have been gathered up and carried along separate and settle.  Without weir zones, all manner of tresures are swept out to sea, a space so vast the likelihood of a single resource being found and recognized is slim.

What I love best about Molly's photo is that the necessary resources - her flexibility, strength, and balance - are already within her, hard won and polished.  Seeing those skills juxtaposed against the visual opposite makes them easy to recognize as treasures.  My favorite photos of harvest are just like that; pieces of sustaining nutrition against a backdrop of Autumn's dying vegetation. 

Me in the completely empty intersection in a parade-ready downtown Walla Walla
Now the days are growing noticeably shorter.  The alarm clock calls me to get busy before it's even light outside.  I feel the pull to go slowly, to catch those treasures that may have drifted close to the shore before I rejoin the crazy collective rush.  The new routine is starting to catch hold and old dreams are becoming real again.  It's certainly the best time to be alive. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Entering the Birth Canal

I know, this title is rather graphic but it's sure what it feels like inside my life right now.  I remember all the pregnancy books trying with words on flat paper to help me understand the absolute impossibility of something that big coming out of down there.  Their comforting advice ranges from "You're almost done," to "It's intense but quick." and "I'm sorry, you can't give up now."  With nine months (or more accurately 40 weeks which is technically 10 months) of good solid achievement behind you, it all comes down to those few hours where pregnancy ends and a whole new life begins.

You can't make it go faster.  You can't skip steps.  You've just got to live it with as much grace as possible.  Endings are crazy like that.  I imagine if I had the luxury of movie-screen reviews of all the assorted episodes my life has spawned thus far, I might be able to pick out where the endings ended and where the beginnings got started.  But right in the middle of it, my head just feels squished.

I am very aware of my own birthday this year - it falls on the first day after I am no longer working as an accountant at Silver Creek.  It falls on the day that I'll take a road trip with my oldest child who is entering her Senior year of High School - confident and shiny and choosing for herself what her beginnings will look like.  We are driving to the other side of the state to witness the Parade Review of my youngest child who is entering her first year of High School - determined to shape a life for herself that fits rather than fitting into the life in which she finds herself.  We leave the tending of the farm to my true love who says that here, in this third half of his life, he's going to do what he wants.

It all feels rather intense but I know that it will be quick.  And that soon, I'll even be through the beginning, immersed in my new normal.  So it seems important to look around at this moment, to notice everything.  I don't want to skip any steps.  It occurs to me that this ending-beginning that I think is just about starting a new job might be part of an ending-beginning that I can't even see yet.  In these last weeks before my birthday, I feel more like I am participating with the ending than ever before.  Beginnings are easy for me to jump into full-on, to try on the new wardrobe and begin speaking the new lingo.  Maybe it's because I'm older this year, but it feels more like choosing the endings than taking on the beginnings.

Ahhhh, here I am trying to use words on a flat screen to describe the chaotic inbreath before a new life starts.  What I set out to do in today's post was to share this passage from "Now You See It" by Cathy Davidson:
"Learning, in this sense, is skill and will, an earned conviction that, faced with a challenge ahead, this past achievement will get one through.  You can count on your ability to learn, and nowhere is that more important than when what you've learned in the past no longer suffices for the future.  That is the glistening paradox of great education:  It is not about answering test questions.  It is about knowing that, when tested by the most grueling challenges ahead, you have the capacity to learn what is required to succeed.
It is in this sense that unlearning is a skill as vital as learning.  It is a skill you have to acquire, too.  Unlearning requires that you take an inventory of your changed situation, that you take an inventory of your current repertoire of skills, and that you have the confidence to see your shortcomings and repair them.  Without confidence in your ability to learn something new, it is almost impossible to see what you have to change in order to succeed against a new challenge...Confidence in your ability to learn is confidence in your ability to unlearn, to switch assumptions or methods or partnerships in order to do better."
 I think that's what feels different this year - I'm more confident in my ability to choose for myself how my endings will look, the unraveling of "normal" is just as exciting and full of potential as the opening up of the new way of being.  Letting a routine, whether it's a habit of behavior or a way of thinking, dissolve back into its essential pieces is rather thrilling...IF... I am not afraid of being left without anything to hold onto.  If I am confident in the pieces and not just the entire complete picture, why, then I could rearrange my favorite pieces into just about anything! 

I think that Jeff, who is indeed one year older than I am already, knows what he is talking about.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Butchering Chickens

 In my friend Jane's novel "Because of the Red Fox", two young characters discuss the eating of chickens lovingly raised.  It's a pretty typical interchange that had me giggling out loud at the oft heard disagreement over what to call the killing of chickens in order to eat them.  Butchering, harvesting, processing, or Jeff's own phrase "sending them to freezer camp."  In my opinion (and that of Jane's characters), calling the task "butchering" does not make it more or less than exactly what it is.  And in the pictures below, you will see that it is indeed done with care for both the chicken and the family whose table they shall grace. 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Unless noted otherwise, you are free to copy, distribute, and transmit any of my writings on this blog for noncommercial purposes as long as you credit me, Lisa Logue Mathias, as the artist/author, and either link back to this blog or include this blog's web address with the piece you're using. Please contact me if you'd like to use any of these pieces in a way that differs from the way stated in this license. However, Please Do Not copy, distribute or transmit any of the photos on this blog for personal or commercial uses. Thank you!