I Zig, Life Zags

We rarely go the same direction, Reality and I. And when the day is long and complicated and my brain can’t quite keep up with it, I wander ever further from the appointed path of sanity and logic. It is decidedly my nature to diverge from what’s natural.

And I’m okay with that. You may as well be, too, because I’ve gone all abstract on you and must needs go to bed. I may or may not be wiser and clearer tomorrow, but I suspect I’ll still be very much myself and enjoy it. Cheerio!Digital illo: Life Goes Its Own Way

Powerless

There are so many ways that we crave and try to wield power, we mortal beings. We think we’re in charge of our own lives, if nothing else. We are wrong.

Our short trip to Portland from Thursday through this morning provided me with a fine refresher course in this form of necessary humility. While our house is in utter disarray during our move to an apartment and our lives in mild chaos during a busy fall season of school, concerts, travel, and conferences, I am about as far from in control of my own little existence as I am from running the world. I did my very worst job of packing, for Portland, that I think I’ve done since somewhere around the age of four. If my parents were dumb enough to let me help pack my luggage then.

So I arrived in Oregon without several of my simplest toiletries, one pair of socks short of the full trip’s worth, and sans laptop power cord. Hence, my first series of several days without daily blog posts in nearly four and a half years. And I must tell you that I was plenty irritated with myself, and mightily disappointed to break the string of consecutive posts so unwittingly, if not witlessly. But you know, the earth did not cease to rotate on its axis. The rain and sun still did their little minuets, people still talked to me as if they genuinely liked doing so, and music still sounded magnificent and more than a little miraculous.

Because it’s not my power cord that connects me to the universe, and it’s most certainly not my power that connects the rest of the universe together. I can’t fix what’s wrong in the world, not by a million miles, but I am not the source of any of its strengths or its life force, let alone its myriad joys. I’m just the lucky participant and recipient, who (when the power is plugged in) gets to report on my view of it all. I’m happy to be back online, but I am reminded that the very best of what I enjoy in my remarkably blessed existence is not born of my own merit or power, and not even remotely connected to whether I’m plugged in or not, figuratively or literally. I’m just plain glad to be here.

Photo: Out of Gas

Yep, I ran out of gas. But I reminded myself, however inadvertently, that it takes letting go of my driven need for power, sometimes, to refuel my spirit.

Scarlet & Emerald

Photo: Scarlet Painted GlassA world of contrasts lies between the powerful opposites among all the colors we can see.  In the space between those beautiful extremes, between the flame of orange and the deep sea of indigo, between scarlet and emerald, is where we can begin to take the measure of our understanding of the visible world. And in the knowing, we can rejoice in the wideness of the visible world that resides between late-night violet and the dazzling yellow of daffodil petals newly sprung, between scarlet and emerald.Photo: Emerald Green Glass

Selfie of the Day

A marvelous post I read yesterday by the amazing Joseph P. Kanski at his blog  Implied Spaces—illustrated with his simply spectacular images, each of them in its unique way a self-portrait—mused on the whole topic of self-portraiture and autobiography, considering what the artists and authors in question are choosing to reveal or conceal, to present or pretend. Every time we interact, or for that matter, fail to or choose not to interact, we are making statements. Some of us are constantly focused on, and perhaps occasionally obsessed with, the verity or clarity of what we present to the world.

People in hiding are not limited to refugees and criminals on the run. Many of us assure ourselves that we are being thoughtful, mindful, when we speak and act, yet there are so many more delicate and subtle bits of identity emanating from us at all times that it would be utterly impossible to control every iota of sensory information we convey, never mind how others in all of their complexity are receiving and interpreting the whole. Regardless of the natural intent most of us have to reinforce our own ideals and wishes, we tend to speak volumes in the myriad ways we present ourselves to the world. The challenge to be true to ourselves only increases with maturation and self-knowledge as we grow and age.

In the present culture of self-revelation, this is, as Mr. Kanski observes, a time when any and every image we present is widely and rather permanently available to be seen and interpreted by ever-increasing numbers, most of whom we will never come to know in any true sense. No time like the present, then, for reevaluating what those revelations are, can be, or should be, according to our own estimation. My hopes and fears inevitably become more visible or available for speculation in every self-image that I offer, so perhaps I shall just see how close I can get to telling my story the way I want to tell it.

My latest: Selfie, 2.0.

Digital illo: Selfie 2.0

The updated version—still Me, more Me, less Me? I’m sure it only depends on whom you ask.

Please Don’t Misapprehend My Apprehension

Photo: ApprehensionOne of my greatest worries is, and always has been, the fear of being misunderstood. Not in the sense of “poor me, I’m an unappreciated genius,” but as in dreading that anyone would think I was saying a bad or mean or insensitive thing when I think I’m doing quite the opposite. This is not an unfounded or inexperienced kind of fear, either. For all that I am so verbal-cum-verbose and try hard to craft my thoughts into words fittingly, I find that the things that matter most to me, especially in moments of intense feeling, become far more difficult to express exactly as I’d wish, and I grow either dumb with the weight of my fine intentions or simply scrambled in what I blurt out in the moment.

Even when I believe I’m at my most cogent and persuasive, I often find I’ve stepped firmly on the tender feelings of those whom I would least wish to offend, and while I am heartily sorry for that and try to be honestly mild and penitent in my responses if they tell me I’ve put my foot wrong, I can’t always undo the hard feelings I’ve inadvertently engendered. Sometimes it’s because I’m left in the dark: even those with whom we’re close can be too wounded or unsure of how to respond and will never tell us we’ve struck a nerve; they might go off silently, nursing their hurt without letting us make amends. Some, too, will bite back at what they consider an affront, but then disappear in a dust-cloud of hasty retreat before I can rephrase to say what I had really meant, apologize, or, in the rare cases when we cannot see eye to eye no matter what, say with due respect that I don’t harbor any ill-will but beg to differ. That, at least, assumes neither of us is a villain or an ignoramus but that our sincere efforts have led us to quite different conclusions. Silence cannot explain, clarify, forgive, or ask for forgiveness, and it certainly cannot open the ears that have been stopped up by anyone’s fixed assumption of my guilt.

And most of all, it can’t allow me to learn from my mistakes, when I fail to convey what I’ve tried so hard to convey. That’s what keeps me awake too late and too long, fussing over the wording of what should, perhaps, have been an easily stated idea or even a passing thought, because I convinced myself, whether through experience or through overwrought and paranoid worrying, it was going to give somebody—anybody—the wrong idea about me.

And there is where I finally spot the heart of the real problem: it’s not all about me, much as I josh about being the center of the universe or pretend that I’m so important. Every other person in the world will never be on the same wavelength I am, not in the things we believe, in the ways we think about them, or perhaps especially, in the ways we express them—or try to do it. And every other person in the world is not going to agree that what I think respectful or complimentary seems that way to them. To expect that kind of universal acceptance is folly; to wish for it is vain; to stay up past my bedtime trying to achieve it is merely asking for trouble.

Surrendering to the plain fact that my imperfection is bound to meet up with others’ occasional misapprehension of my meaning is not total capitulation. But as it might mean I get a better night’s sleep, I do think it worth a try.Photo: Misapprehension

Flowering Quietly

Photo: Macroscopic Garden 1The faintest, mildest, least-noticeable of all things can still have tremendous impact. Take lichens, for example: the most wonderful of flowers, even gardens, on a microscopic scale. Strong enough to wear down stone itself over time, but so delicate and dainty and fairylike that they are rich and glorious even in their seeming fragility.Photo: Macroscopic Garden 2

A Lone Bird

Photo: A Lone BirdSolitude is not always lonesome; it can be a deeply joyful place of peace and calm. It can be an inward-looking, melancholic sweetness tinged with nostalgia or the cosmic silence in which every breath becomes a prayer. To be alone in the worldly sense never denies the possibility of a welcome, comforting Other presence, or the awesome sweep of knowing that reassures, despite all challenges, that one has a place in the universe, however small.

Formless in the mist, obliterated by dark and storm, or shut from sight by suffering or fear, the things that ordinarily create a sense of normalcy or rootedness may not be gone, but in the state of being all alone, anyone can become convinced she is alone, and that solitude is a burden or a punishment. But in the stillness, too, is the possibility of deeper thought, of slipping into a state where the good and the powerful and the blessed things that fill the spirit—when there are fewer distractions of person-place-or-thing to prevent it—well up and are renewed.