14 September 2012


Riverfront View from Louisville
Bob Blakely
          I don't have Internet access at home.  While the primary reasons for this have to do with money; I think that there are also larger, more 'karmic' if you will, reasons for having made this choice.  Today I'm reminded of those larger reasons.
          As I write this I'm sitting outside my favorite coffee shop - Sunergos (means:  We Work Together) on Preston St. close to where I used to live.  This morning I came, not only for the delicious coffee but to take care of some work for my supported employment job.  After taking care of answering work emails and so forth I was glancing around - mostly to stretch my neck and back - and noticed, on a man's computer screen, the wonderful picture above.  It's a picture - for those of you unfamiliar with Louisville - of the Indiana side of the Ohio River.  The 'giant clock across the water' - to quote a Tim Krekel song - is a landmark here, visible from many places downtown and on the riverfront.  At one time Colgate had threatened to take the clock down and the protest surprised everyone.
           I was intrigued by the picture, particularly that it is sepia-toned, and obviously taken in winter, so I asked the man where he'd found it - so I could download and use it on MY desktop.  He told me he'd taken the picture himself.  We talked briefly about what I liked in the picture, and he showed me another photo he'd taken.  And then he offered to send me the picture via email.  What a lovely thing to do.
          A while later I decided to move outside - since we're enjoying unseasonably cool and clear days lately.  I'm sitting here piddling around at my computer when the same man comes out to tell me he'd sent the picture.  He further told me that I'd inspired him to do something he's been considering - to quit one of his part-time jobs and return to photography as a vocation and paying enterprise.  The man explained a bit of his thinking - I didn't ask him to - and we spoke casually about getting older and how we often need to make changes in our lives.  Sometimes, we agreed, those changes are a move toward something we've been wanting to do or try but hadn't yet given ourselves permission for.
          This is one of those larger reasons why I'm not supposed to have Internet at home.  Yes, it would be much more convenient to get online any time, making no effort even to put on clothes, much less to get in the car (since there are NO coffee shops in my neck of the woods).  Yes, I could probably afford to pay that bill now - with my second job.  But there's something of isolation in doing that.
          I'm reminded of an episode of Northern Exposure, in which Maggie buys a washer & dryer for her cabin so she can do laundry when she wants, in comfort and privacy.  But very soon Maggie finds that she misses the people she used to see at the laundramat, that she feels out of touch with her community, and, actually, just plain lonely.
           What would I have missed if I'd been at home this morning - besides the good coffee (which, even with buying Sunergos' beans I can never seem to duplicate)?  While I'm not so bold as to think that I alone might be responsible for Bob Blakely's potentially new creative challenge - how much of a difference does it make that I came to the coffee shop this morning?
           Maybe I just need to accept that inspirations are random and serendipitous.  And maybe I just need to keep coming back (as they say in twelve steps) and see what evolves.
          Keep on truckin'.

08 September 2012

Another New Occupation

     My friend Meridian has been on my case [though gently] ever since we met, about my lack of gratitude.  What she means by that is that I don't have the habit, nor, often, the inclination to view a lot of what life and the powers-that-be in the world has presented to me in a positive light.
     She's right in a lot of respects.  While I am daily and deeply grateful for much of what I've been given:  my beautiful and bold daughter Sarah, my dear friends (of whom Meridian is, luckily, one among many), the formal educational experiences I've had, being a Southern woman - I haven't been as filled with gratitude about a lot in my life.
     Now, I'm aware certainly that some of what I don't feel thankful for:  growing up in a dysfunctional and alcoholic home, being married to another drunk, a mother who taught fear more than anything else, and so on - those have been the very situations and people from which I've learned the most.  Those times and places and people have forced me to grow and to grow up, to locate my voice and speak and write from its truth, to understand how to truly respond from my core knowing.  
     Yet I still, too often and too habitually, wish that things had been different, that I'd chosen differently.  I still long to see the world the way others - those with more 'normal' pasts - see it, and wish I could choose from a place inside me that feels more secure - more deserving of the good things the world seems to offer.  
     No - I don't have an attitude of gratitude in general.
     Well, my friend will be pleased to know that recently, since I began a new job, I've felt the pin-pricks of gratefulness.  Not so much for those things I've already mentioned, but gratitude that the universe hasn't presented me with even harsher lessons - the lessons taught through experiencing a physical or mental disability, lessons learned when one is homeless, lessons learned when growing up in severe poverty or growing up far away from family.  
     Nearly every day when working at this job - in which I assist and support persons with disabilities to prepare for and find a real job in which they can grow and develop and eventually become more independent and capable - nearly every day I think, "There, but for the grace of God, would I be."
     Now its not at all that I feel or see or think myself above or in any way better than the clients I work with.  On the contrary - their courage and their persistence, their capacity to overcome, their faith that we can and will help them, their ability to take the small (and sometimes not-so-small) steps that will help us help them - all of these things often make me view myself as JUST SO DAMN LUCKY.  
     The incredible good fortune I had to be born to people who, while they weren't very well equipped to raise children, at least made sure we had a home and food and clothing and lunch money!  How lucky I was to have family to step in when things went wrong or crises happened.  How amazing that I never went to bed hungry, that I did not inherit any life-altering physical problems.
     Gratitude for all of this, and more, keeps tapping me on the shoulder.  
     And when it does I often think myself rather whiny and even demanding to wish my life had been other than it has been.  I have so MUCH - so much love, so many opportunities, so wonderful a home, sufficient food, and leisure, not to mention health and a mind that works well.  
     How can I not be filled with gratitude when I see the truth of what I have, when I encounter in others a reality that - had my life begun or been different - might just as easily have been mine?
     So - I owe it to Meridian - and myself - and particularly I owe it to all of those folks out there who are existing in situations that might have been my situation - I owe it to all of us to say "thanks" when the gods and goddesses of gratitude press for my attention.  

04 September 2012

A New Occupation

The lessons built-in to this experience of moving household surprise me; it’s as if they’re hiding inside the packed boxes, or beneath them, released each time I move one.  If I open it to see if what-I’m-looking-for lurks just inside.
       The lessons are I believe the spirit of this move; perhaps pointing the way to what my soul seeks from the choice – to move – to move here.
       Here is where people are poor, live poor and, too often - poorly.  When you’ve got nothin’; as the song says.  Not everyone, of course IS in poverty.  A famous and – even better - respected architect, my next door neighbors with their rain barrels, ‘community’ garden and dinners from their large backyard garden, the owners of my favorite coffee shop, and surely others of their mind live up here.
It’s real up here, alongside the canal that moves ships into the Ohio.  People yell when they’re mad, and fight out loud, laugh heartily and with a hard edge; here on the northern edge of the city and state there are no barriers to reality.  Compared to nearly everywhere else I’ve lived there’s little work at beautification up here.  Except for the random homemade art that one comes upon unexpectedly.  Against a canvas of often boarded up houses that stand like sad reminders of a time when Portland was prosperous, more than a neighborhood on Louisville’s northwest border, it’s own city; art – made sometimes of junk or found objects and brightly painted, boxes or giant spiders.
The practical reasons for the move – economic, and otherwise perhaps too typically Aquarian; I’ve been accused of hard-headedness and provoking trouble by moving here.  Maybe I do look for trouble – actually, no maybe about it.  But that, I’ve had to find acceptance for, is part of who I am; I like challenge and edgy activities.  Sitting on my bed each night surrounded by slowly decreasing walls of boxes I hear noises outside my walls:  arguments and sirens and buses, sounds I was brought up to fear.  Yet they come to my ears as life – messily and noisily happening, right now.
One therapist I saw only twice several years ago asked me why I was intent on making life harder, “the idea is to make it easier” he said.  I was embracing a brief affair with analysis then, and was amazed at his rush to judgment.  But he was correct – I make my life more difficult than it necessarily needs to be, just to see if I can make it.  That way I’m in charge.  Maybe I’m here because of that.  But only in part I think.
And there it is again – the search for reasons, for why, the desire to learn the lessons right now instead of simply sitting on my bed, or on the front porch (ahhhh, front porch sitting – even in the hurricane generated rain) and allowing what is of, and in, the moment to present itself.  The [what feels like] urgent necessity for understanding – hell, for KNOWING something I am, perhaps, not ready to know rises up from my toes and sits beside me – again.

Occupation of a new space is the only occupation I need to have in this moment.  Tranformative learning – indeed!